Warriors begin title quest Saturday in No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup

The old “Are You Ready For Some Football?” theme song is widely known, but it’s really asking an insignificant question. A better soundtrack would be The Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” because even if you haven’t properly prepared, high school football is still kicking off Saturday night.

Here it comes. You can’t hide.

With that warning in mind, one of the games of the season gets top billing right at the start. Defending KIF champion Kapaa will open its preseason slate against Nanakuli on Saturday in Kapolei. Kapaa has faced some tough opponents in its recent non-conference schedules, but this one pits two teams with good chances at playing for the Division II title when the year comes to a close.

ScoringLive has given the Nanakuli Golden Hawks the No. 1 ranking in its preseason power poll after last season’s 10-1 record. The Hawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the 2014 postseason earlier than they would have hoped, losing to Kamehameha-Kapalama in the opening round.

While the task may appear daunting, the Warriors have become a Division II difference maker, themselves, and they have the power ranking to prove it. Kapaa begins the season just one spot down at number two. The whole year is still ahead of us and there are undoubtedly surprises in store, but game number one is already a battle for No. 1.

Kapaa returns a load of talent from a team that barely missed out on the state championship game. After winning the KIF title for just the second time since 1989, Kapaa was edged by Iolani, 29-24, in the 2014 D-II semifinals.

It’s been quite a turnaround in the Warrior program — one that had been considered the KIF’s third wheel for decades as Waimea and Kauai High each took turns developing dynasties.

Now they are the favorites for another conference title and an early favorite to win a state championship.

Kapaa began last season with a tough task, taking on then top-ranked Lahainaluna at Vidinha Stadium. It was a close game that ultimately went to the Lunas, 18-16. Lahainaluna went on to have an undefeated season until they were finally upended by Iolani in the state championship game.

In 2013, Kapaa earned a dominant win over Nanakuli before suffering another loss to Lahainaluna prior to the start of its KIF schedule. They’re not ducking anyone. The Warriors have been playing the big boys and it has proven essential in their development.

When the NCAA selection committees choose their representatives for the football and basketball postseasons, they use teams’ out-of-conference schedules as a key component. Kapaa wouldn’t have to sweat out their own inclusion. They’re taking on all comers.

Saturday’s result may be less important than how Kapaa measures up in their own minds. If they maintain that tough demeanor from 2014 and are able to compete, then winning or losing the game is just a small detail. If they leave the stadium feeling like they’re a championship caliber team, that makes the Warriors as dangerous as anyone in Division II.

Football has arrived. Are you ready? Insignificant.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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