There is a muddled huddle atop the OIA D-II standings with Kaimuki, Kaiser and Roosevelt tied at 6-1.
Kaimuki plays Kalani, Kaiser travels to face Kalaheo and, on Saturday, Roosevelt hikes to Nanakuli. If the three co-leaders win as expected, there will be a coin flip to determine seeding for the three playoff spots. The fourth spot is also up for grabs with Nanakuli needing a win and a Waialua loss to keep the Bulldogs from getting the final berth.
But what if the OIA had counted games against ILH teams? In this case, in D-II, no difference. The only ILH D-II team was Pac-Five, which lost to the OIA’s co-leaders.
The Wolfpack are the lone dog out of the playoffs since there is no state-tourney berth for ILH D-II. In a parallel universe, maybe Pac-Five is part of the D-II playoff picture. At 5-3, the ‘Pack would be in position for the fourth and final playoff berth (in the OIA), having beaten playoff hopefuls Nanakuli (17-12), Waialua (20-14) and Kalani (20-9).
If the OIA counted results against the ILH, Nanakuli and Waialua would be 4-4, Kalani would be out at 3-5. And if the head-to-head tiebreaker rule was still in effect for a league that included Pac-Five, the Wolfpack would already have that edge.
There is no postseason for Pac-Five, but occasionally two programs from different islands can turn lemons into lemonade. In 1991, a strong Damien squad opened the ILH season 4-1 — long before there were Open, or Division I and II — then suffered key injuries, and finished 5-5. The Monarchs were invited to play BIIF champion Konawaena in the MacFarms Bowl. Konawaena normally would have played in the Neighbor Island Classic, but a long league schedule left the Wildcats on the outside looking in as the champions of the KIF and MIL squared off.
Damien’s injured players recovered, including quarterback Francis Breckterfield, and the Monarchs won 17-6 at a packed house at Julian Yates Field. Breckterfield still ranks among the Top 10 in school history in single-game yardage. He passed for 256 yards against Kamehameha on Sept. 27, 1991, which ranks fifth on the list.
Today, reasonable air fares make postseason travel a real possibility for teams like Pac-Five. Maybe. Just a side note: Konawaena, which moved up from Division II this season, is battling for the BIIF’s lone state berth in D-I. If the Wildcats fall short against perennial champion Hilo, they too will be a good team all dressed up with no place to dance.
Of all the potential matchups in a non-state tourney scenario, Konawaena is one of the sites that would draw a substantial crowd. If Konawaena isn’t interested, there’s Kealakehe, which is currently third in the BIIF D-I standings. There’s Hawaii Prep, which is second in BIIF D-II.
Konawaena coach Brad Uemoto is focused on guiding his team in the BIIF D-I playoffs. He said that if the Wildcats do not get past undefeated, defending league champion Hilo, they would be very interested in hosting a bowl game — pending approval from administration.
Who else is interested? Pac-Five coach Kip Botelho and at least one ILH D-I coach. Botelho said he would have to get approval from his administrators, as well.
If four teams are interested, this could become a doubleheader — transportation costs and proper approval pending. Kealakehe’s first-year head coach, Wyatt Nahale said he would seek the OK from his administrators. A Pac-Five/Kealakehe matchup would be intriguing. Kealakehe edged Pearl City 13-7 in nonconference play. Over the weekend, Pac-Five rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Pearl City 28-21 at Aloha Stadium.
“That is an awesome idea and I would definitely support that,” Nahale said. “I watched that (Pac-Five/Pearl City) game. It definitely would be fun to play another Oahu team.”
Both Uemoto of Konawaena and Nahale of Kealakehe said they would arrange for visiting teams to stay overnight in their gyms if needed.
Teams like Pac-Five and Konawaena could pass on an extended season, preferring to let athletes dive into their winter sports rather than linger in football an extra two or three weeks. If Pac-Five would not travel, maybe the ILH’s D-I runner-up — Damien or ‘Iolani — would be interested. Those two teams aren’t in the same straits as Pac-Five, but both have proven to be worthy teams stuck in a tough situation.
A powerhouse in D-II, Konawaena only moved up to D-I this year because of drastic changes in the BIIF. They could still win the BIIF D-I crown, and if the ‘Cats were still in D-II, they would clearly be atop the league standings.
Pac-Five at Konawaena, or Pac-Five vs. Kealakehe as part of a doubleheader, would be a challenging task for the visitors, but in a year of oddity and heartbreak, maybe the Wolfpack would be up for it. They just want a door to open.