With their season complete and having put together an undefeated run through the KIF, the Kapaa Warriors will now sit back and wait to see who and when they’ll be playing in the state tournament. I’ve been known to be spotted around a poker table from time to time, so to borrow a phrase, it’s time for Kapaa to let the chips fall where they may. Head coach Philip Rapozo and Kapaa have done everything they can to prove their mettle, in both league play and their non-conference battle with Lahainaluna. Whether they are rewarded with a top-two seed and a first-round bye will probably have very little to do with what they’ve actually done to this point.
Saturday’s 52-0 win over Kauai High to close out the season was a throwback of sorts. It was the Warriors’ first home game played at the New Kapaa Town Park field since the 2011 season. Winning their second KIF championship since 1989 concluded in both a comfortable location and in comfortable fashion. The Warrior defense starred once again. They gave up just 22 total points in their six conference games and never more than seven in any contest. That dominance held the Red Raiders in check and never allowed them to maintain any consistent success.
It will be that defensive prowess that weighs heaviest in Kapaa’s ultimate HHSAA seeding. There seem to be three teams fighting for two spots with Lahainaluna and Iolani joining the Warriors. If we take the ScoringLive/OC16 rankings at face value, Kapaa is probably still on the outside looking in. The top team in Division II has been Lahainaluna, who entered Saturday night’s final contest against Maui (7-1) with an 8-0 record, going 7-0 through its MIL season. The Lunas obviously have the upper hand on Kapaa, having beaten the Warriors 18-16 in the preseason.
Then comes the annual Iolani debate — one that the Raiders typically win for good reason. More than just record and point total has to come into play when evaluating Iolani because they face elite Division I opponents while maintaining D-II status. That type of preparation had been good enough for six consecutive D-II state championships before last season, when Kauai High knocked Iolani out in the semifinals. Iolani finished its season Saturday with a 34-14 win over Damien to capture its 11th straight ILH D-II crown. The Raiders were 6-3 overall, their three losses to the likes of Saint Louis, Punahou and Kamehameha.
Saturday’s crushing finale may give Kapaa a bump in the committee members’ minds, but my gut tells me that the Warriors will be hosting a quarterfinal game here on Kauai in two weeks while the Lunas and Raiders enjoy the bye week and wait for the semifinals. But another game on the schedule is just another chance for Kapaa to prove itself. The KIF was tougher this year than those who haven’t seen the teams up close would likely assume.
Do the Warriors deserve a spot in that top two? Perhaps. But not getting that recognition shouldn’t diminish what Kapaa has done, nor should it diminish expectations on what they still can do. It’s been a great season with some even greater challenges ahead, but for the time being, everything is out of Kapaa’s hands.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.