The OIA football regular season began last week providing some exciting moments for schools struggling to field competitive football teams under the current two-tier alignment.
Radford, coming off a winless season in which it managed only one offensive touchdown, nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback against Castle, finishing with more points in the game than it had scored the entire previous season in an entertaining 33-28 loss.
Nanakuli, which also went winless in 2016, picked up its first victory under new head coach Kili Watson, holding off an Aiea program, 12-7, that hasn’t been able to keep a junior varsity team intact for an entire season in recent years.
Two games that came down to the final minutes in the fourth quarter. Fun for the players, entertaining for the fans, teachable moments for the coaches. It had everything you’d want in high school football.
And predictably, it ended there.
As we’ve seen in Division II in the OIA this year (Kalani and Pearl City going to OT, Kaimuki edging Kalani 41-34, McKinley and Kalaheo in a one-point game), when teams of similar levels are pitted against one another, you get the best of high school football.
So what did we get this past weekend in Division I? Five games decided by a combined score of 208-20.
Take away a missed extra point by Kapolei and all five games would have been running clock for most of the fourth quarter. While Kalaheo was making a fourth-down stand deep in its own territory to beat McKinley by one, or Kaimuki was recovering an onside kick to hold off Kalani by one score, the scoreboards for Division I games were lighting up on only one side.
The numbers are getting dangerously low. Kalaheo played its second game in three weeks suiting up 19 kids. Kailua has made for an amazing story this season, starting 2-0 with 29 in pads. The Surfriders knocked off a team from Arizona by a point and shut out Moanalua. They’ve held up for now. But what happens once they play Farrington and Kapolei back-to-back and then Mililani in their eighth game in as many weeks? A few injuries and suddenly their situation is a precarious one.
A big injury and suddenly we begin to wonder why football mattered so much in the first place.
Moanalua had a bye this week after losing to Punahou and Kailua by a combined score of 79-7. Na Menehune’s excitement resting up after a bye is quickly offset by the murderers row of Kahuku, Waianae and Campbell over the next three weeks.
All because the largest league in the state is stuck on dividing its teams up in two tiers.
Kaiser might have been able to field a team in Division II, but because it’s stuck in Division I and its head coach is concerned about safety, the Cougars have yet to play a game, essentially killing football in Hawaii Kai for the time being.
The OIA coaches were in unanimous agreement after last season to go to three tiers. But it never happened.
Because of it, get used to seeing 208-20. Because until we get deep into the OIA playoffs, that’s about what you can expect.