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Lunas’ move to D-I unanimously approved

Chun: Leagues want to keep high school sports seasons status quo

Tre Rickard of Lahainaluna High School celebrates during the Lunas’ win over Kapaa in the Division II state championship game Nov. 29 at Aloha Stadium. ANDREW LEE photo

The last time Lahainaluna High School lost a Maui Interscholastic League football game was Oct. 15, 2016, when Baldwin beat the Lunas 19-13.

Since then, Lahainaluna has won an MIL-record 25 straight league games and four straight Division II state titles.

Chalk up another major, decisive victory for the Lunas. The MIL executive board voted 10-0 Monday to move Lahainaluna to Division I for football, effective immediately.

The final approval came less than a week after the move was formally proposed by Lahainaluna athletic director Scott Soldwisch.

“I think our coaches will be pleased, the initiative came from them,” Soldwisch said. “I think they’ll be pleased with the result and to hear that there weren’t any objections from any other member schools.”

It is the first time things have changed in the MIL football divisions since the 2007-08 school year, when it was established that Baldwin and Maui High would be the Division I teams, while Division II would be made up of Lahainaluna, Kamehameha Maui and King Kekaulike, which won the 2006 D-II state title in football.

The MIL bases its divisions on enrollment size for all sports. Lahainaluna is currently the third-largest school in the MIL, behind Maui High and Baldwin.

The league football handbook says that the MIL schedule shall be two full rounds of play between all of the teams, and that was not changed by Monday’s decision.

“I don’t think it affects the schedule in the least,” Soldwisch said. “The real discussions will probably (happen) when Kihei high school is completed because I would expect that is going to be a large school that will be playing 11-man football, so then there would be six teams (in the league) and (the divisions) would likely be three and three.

“We’ve always gone on enrollment, not on power ranking in the MIL, and I think the reason why this was unanimous is because it doesn’t deviate from that.”

Baldwin went 8-0 in MIL play in 2016 when the Lunas were 5-3 in the league and won three road games to capture their first state title. Since then, Lahainaluna has been the dominant team in league play, outscoring opponents 908-164 over 24 games, an average of 38-7.

“Since the inception of the rule for football, I think it was ’06-’07, there’s been some significant changes, first and foremost, the Open Division in state football,” Soldwisch said. “The demographics have changed: King Kekaulike has gotten considerably smaller. So, I just think that the other member schools just see that it was a good fit for us to be in Division I.”

The dominant teams can change in a hurry, noted Soldwisch, a former MIL football coordinator. The Lunas outscored the MIL 313-19 in 2018 and 309-55 in 2019.

“The strength of the teams are cyclical,” he said. “They go up and down — I think that’s why we like to stick with the enrollment (as the determining factor for divisions). Since I started as a teacher in 1991 the top team in the league has bounced around from school to school.”

Soldwisch said some of the discussion of the proposal was how long it will last? It will now take another vote of the MIL athletic directors approving a proposal to send to the executive board to vote on and approve to change the divisional lineups.

“You can’t say anything’s permanent, but we don’t see it as a temporary move,” he said. “We see it as just a better fit.”

Lunas co-head coach Dean Rickard said the time is right for the move.

“I think it says a lot about our program, the kids will definitely be excited to hear it,” Rickard said. “And I’m sure the community as well because I guess your article stirred up a buzz in the west side sporting community. There were people following on social media, the kids were texting. They were happy that it was being proposed and now that it has been approved, unanimously, now we can get that uncertainty out of the way.

“Now we just work on preparing for whatever the HHSAA and our league say how we’re going to move forward with the football season. So, at least that’s one hurdle and we’re glad to hear it, no doubt.”

Earlier Monday, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association committee to set start dates for sports met and is now closing in on a proposed calendar. While some ideas had been bounced around on moving traditional seasons around on the calendar, that appears to have been muted.

Shorter seasons than normal will most likely be the norm to give wiggle room on dealing with any wrenches thrown in the plans by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Pretty much every league reported back about what they think our calendar should look like next year and every league seemed to be in agreement that they prefer the seasons to stay status quo,” HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun said. “They all are willing to shorten the seasons to have time at the end to work something out in case we have to delay or something like that.

“It’s pretty much they all liked it the way we have it set up — fall, winter, spring traditionally, but with shortened seasons. … It was unanimous that everyone wanted to keep the seasons the same as much as possible.”

The committee’s goal is to have a detailed sports calendar by May 31, but that timeline may be shortened.

Chun said it wasn’t a specific discussion, but non-league preseason football games could be in jeopardy because of the shortened season.

“We’re going to go back, see what kind of shortened seasons work for every league, what kind of issues that might arise, and then every league has to make decisions and talk to each other about what would we do in case something happens,” Chun said. “We have to come up with cut-off dates and try to think of any kind of scenario that we can to insure that all the sports get played.”

The committee will meet again next Monday.

“Hopefully by next week we can come to agreement with a calendar,” Chun said. “With all the sports in place, we can come up with a calendar and then we also have to think to contingency plans, what would be our drop-dead date to play or cancel or move or postpone? That kind of stuff.

“Everyone’s got to keep talking, but I honestly think we can have a calendar by next week.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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