State seeding leaves some puzzled
Lahainaluna and Kaiser high schools have had the top-ranked Division II football teams in Hawaii since August, in all three statewide polls.
The Lunas and Cougars, however, have no chance to meet in the state championship game.
After the first 10-0 regular season in school history, Lahainaluna was awarded the Maui Interscholastic League’s second No. 1 seed for football – the first went to the Lunas’ state runner-up team in 2007.
Kaiser is seeded fourth despite rolling to 10 wins in a row after a season-opening 21-7 loss to Campbell, which is in the Division I state tournament.
A victory over Konawaena on Saturday would send the Cougars into a semifinal at War Memorial Stadium against the Lunas on Nov. 16.
“You have to be happy with the bye, but like everybody else, Kaiser included, we are very shocked about them being the fourth seed,” Lahainaluna co-head coach Garret Tihada said Tuesday. “Everybody is surprised that Kaiser got the four.”
Kaiser has outscored opponents by an average of 48-9 this season, and twice put up 70 points or more.
Two Oahu Interscholastic Association teams chose to forfeit to the Cougars, who have built their team largely on transfers, including starting middle linebacker Tommy Fisher, formerly of Maui High, and quarterback Kahoalii Karratti, formerly of Konawaena.
“I don’t know about running up scores,” said MIL Executive Director Joe Balangitao. “I can’t speak for the OIA, but I know a big question came in: the recruiting. They have, I guess, a lot of players from different schools from all over the state. I don’t know if they are trying to send a message or what.”
The other seeds are No. 2 Iolani (7-4), the six-time defending state champion, and No. 3 Kauai (8-0), which will play OIA runner-up Pearl City on Saturday for the right to face Iolani in the other semifinal.
“It comes down to Iolani, us, Kaiser, that should have been the top three teams right there, no matter what,” Tihada said. “I don’t know what the decision-making process was, the whole thing making (Kaiser) No. 4 – we have no control over that, we just have to play. It is just very interesting how they came up with that.”
Iolani beat Lahainaluna 36-33 last year for the state crown.
The seeds are chosen by a committee of five members – the football coordinators of each of the state’s leagues. Seeds can only go to league champions.
Kamehameha Maui athletic director Blane Gaison is the MIL football representative. Balangitao was also at the seeding meeting.
Hawaii High School Athletic Association Executive Director Chris Chun explained that each seed is voted on, starting with No. 1.
“When Lahainaluna came up, because everyone has seen Lahainaluna in past tournaments, they understand they return a lot of players, I think they have been playing well against everybody all year,” Chun said.
“When Iolani came up, they all voted because, yeah, they are the six-time defending state champs, they didn’t lose to any D-II schools, they only lost to past D-I state champions.
“I think when Kauai was discussed, it was they were undefeated. They beat Kapaa twice, which was the only school to put up an effort against Lahainaluna (the Lunas beat the Warriors 28-13 on Aug. 17). They have done well in past state tournaments.
“Then Kaiser, that was another tough one. Everyone has seen what they have done all year, but I think the football coordinators are the ones who see all the teams play throughout the year, so they are the ones who can fairly evaluate it and that’s what they discussed.”
In Division I, Baldwin (6-4) is a No. 4 seed for the first time, behind Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Hilo (10-1).
Baldwin was a No. 2 in 2005, the first year seeds were awarded, and has been the No. 3 every other season. The Bears have advanced to six state semifinals in the 14-year history of the D-I tournament, while the BIIF is 0-14 all-time.
Baldwin hosts OIA runner-up Farrington on Friday, while Hilo takes on OIA third-place finisher Campbell.
“It doesn’t matter, I’m happy that we’re in the states and that we get to represent Maui in states,” said first-year Baldwin coach Keneke Pacheco.
“I don’t see it as (disrespect). They do what they do – whatever they do behind closed doors, that’s up to them. Great for Hilo that they got the No. 3 seed, we just want to go out and represent Maui well.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com