Four Hawaii high school football teams are still in action tonight as both the Division I and II playoffs have been whittled down to their finalists. Each will match the top two seeds against one another with (1) Punahou taking on (2) Mililani for the D-I crown and (1) Lahainaluna facing (2) Iolani in D-II. Though Kapaa came up just short of its first D-II championship game appearance, the trend over the past few years has shown the Kauai Interscholastic Federation narrowing the gap between itself and the other D-II heavyweights.
Since Division II began holding its own championship tournament in 2003, just one outer-island school has taken the title (King Kekaulike, 2006). But the KIF representative has now reached at least the semifinal round in five of the past six seasons. Kauai High made it all the way to the title game twice (2009, 2013) and the semifinals once (2010), while Kapaa has now reached the semifinals twice (2011, 2014).
Most of those late-round contests have been close. Despite not playing their prettiest game, the Red Raiders lost to Iolani, 28-21, in the 2009 championship. Iolani knocked them out again in the 2010 semifinal, though the 14-0 score looked quite respectable when Iolani went on to score 49 points in their title game win the following week. Kauai led 7-0 at halftime of last year’s title game before falling 17-7 to Kaiser.
As the 4-seed in 2011, Kapaa battled with No. 1 Iolani in the semifinals but came up just short in a 17-13 defeat. The Warriors had a chance to buck the trend last week and held a fourth-quarter lead, but Iolani again came out on top, 29-24.
Iolani has been the dynasty of D-II and could win its seventh championship in eight seasons with a victory over the Lunas tonight at Aloha Stadium. But if you look at a bit more than just the name on the trophy, you can see a broader narrative in the works. The KIF is making its way into title contention each year, but it probably isn’t being noticed. It’s a bit like the frog in the pot of hot water. The temperature is rising at a steady pace and the rest of D-II might not realize it’s reached a boiling point until it’s too late.
Maui Pro to open Saturday
The final women’s World Championship Tour event of the 2014 surf season gets underway Saturday with the Target Maui Pro. Results will determine who takes home the world title. Stephanie Gilmore is in the driver’s seat and can clinch her sixth career world championship with a top-two finish.
The only wahine with a chance to move past her are her compatriots, Aussies Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright. If Fitzgibbons wins the event and Gilmore earns third place, the two will be tied and a surf-off will decide the champion. Fitzgibbons can win it outright with a win and Gilmore not reaching the semifinals.
Wright can’t win it outright and can only get to a surf-off if she wins the event and Gilmore does not reach the semifinals.
Kauai’s Malia Manuel gets going in the first heat against French pair Johanne Defay and Pauline Ado. Alana Blanchard will be in the fourth heat against Fitzgibbons and Aussie rookie Dimity Stoyle, who is fighting to stay on the WCT. Stoyle sits in 11th place for the season and will need to pass Laura Enever to move into 10th and earn a spot on the 2015 tour. Enever already has a spot secured with her World Qualifying Series ranking.
That scenario will also determine if Oahu’s Alessa Quizon gets back on the WCT next season. She will need Enever to remain ahead of Stoyle in 10th place. If that occurs, Quizon will make it with her WQS ranking. If not, she does not have a spot guaranteed.
Maui big waver Paige Alms will be the wild card of the event. She’s not typically a contest surfer but Alms could provide some excitement and additional drama with so much at stake for the other women.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.