Red Raiders among top dogs in D-II

With the final game of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation football season kicking off Saturday, the Kauai Red Raiders have already locked up the 2013 league title. Regardless of their outcome against the Waimea Menehune, the Raiders will be heading to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament, beginning Nov. 8.

If Kauai (7-0, 5-0 KIF) is able to remain unbeaten against Waimea (1-7, 0-5) during homecoming on the Westside, it will likely enter the championship tournament as one of just two undefeated teams. The only other Division II team still without a blemish is Lahainaluna (9-0, 7-0 Maui Interscholastic League), which plays its season finale Saturday against a Maui High School team it beat 37-7 in their first meeting.

Lahainaluna is currently the top-ranked D-II team, according the MaxPreps computer rankings. Following at No. 2 is Kauai, so the Raiders find themselves right in the mix for a potential first-round bye and should be considered one of the favorites entering tournament play.

As for the other favorites, the Lunas are hoping to be one of the top two seeds after coming close to a state title in 2012. Finishing runner-up in a three-point loss to Iolani last year, Lahainaluna has followed it up with a dominant 2013 campaign. In its nine games, Lahainaluna has scored 350 points and surrendered just 43, winning by an average of 34 points per game.

The team to play the Lunas the toughest has actually been the Kapaa Warriors, who opened this season with a trip to Maui’s War Memorial Stadium, falling 28-13. The Warriors are the only team to score more than seven points in a game against the Lunas and the only team to lose by fewer than 21 points.

It is always interesting to see how the HHSAA chooses to seed Iolani, which has a 6-4 overall record and a 3-3 mark in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

Even with what appears to be a mediocre record, Iolani could very well be the best team in D-II and is currently ranked fourth, thanks to its high level of competition and strength of schedule. The Raiders’ four losses have come at the hands of Punahou (ranked No. 1 in the state), Kamehameha (No. 3), St. Louis (No. 5) and Leilehua (No. 6).

But while the losses are certainly excusable, Iolani’s best win has probably been a 19-3 victory over Damien (4-5, 2-4 ILH), with those two teams playing again in today’s regular season finale.

It’s hard to say how good this Iolani team actually is, but it’s even harder to discount Coach Wendell Look and his team’s six consecutive D-II championships.

Kaiser (9-1, 8-0 Oahu Interscholastic Association White) may be the surprise team of 2013 and is having one of its best years in school history. Currently ranked No. 3 in D-II, the Cougars have completely turned their program around under former UH associate head coach Rich Miano. After a combined record of 3-14 in 2010 and 2011, Miano came in and began the transformation in 2012, leading the Cougars to a 7-3 mark in his inaugural season. This year, Kaiser is averaging 49.5 points per game and surrendering only 9.6 to its opponents.

Again, as with most of the top D-II teams, the level of competition in Kaiser’s victories can be called into question. Trying to handicap the state tournament beforehand is a difficult endeavor because of the different conferences and differing levels of play.

Lahainaluna has the best record. Iolani has played the toughest schedule. Kauai has had the best wins — Kapaa is ranked No. 5 in D-II, so Kauai’s three victories over the Warriors represent the best win resume of any other D-II school.

Two of those three should be receiving a bye directly into the semifinal round and it’s very likely two of those three will be playing at Aloha Stadium for the state title. Which two remains to be seen.

• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to dsimon@thegardenisland.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI

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