Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

must be done right

FIRST, the name. If a proposed high school Division II football tournament is going to work -- and let's face it, with Keith Amemiya behind the project not only in name, but in wallet, it just might happen -- it needs a better name.

Division II. Would you pay to see a Division II championship? Would you play for a Division II championship? No, this can't be the JV games, the best of the second-bests. If that's what it will look like, let's end this right now.

It needs dignity. It needs a name people can rally around. Let's call it the Hawaii small schools championship. That's what the winner should be.

Second, if you're a big school, you're out.

Forget it. I don't care about recent won-loss records. If you have 1,500 students and you can't put together 22 fairly decent football players, that's not a classification problem.

But here's the one thing this movement needs to decide for itself: Exactly who is this tournament for? Neighbor island champions? Oahu mid-majors? Underdogs? Underachievers? Simply the next best group of teams after the elite, regardless of enrollment?

It'll be the defining question.

It makes all the difference.

Yeah, everyone would love to hold up a trophy. There might be a land rush of schools deigning to be declared "Division II." But let's remember that the "small schools" in state tournament terms are the often big ones where they came from.

I remember being a small kid, watching Big Island champion Konawaena warm up, seeing 40 guys in green and white doing jumping jacks, and thinking I had never seen so many football players in my life.

(Ka'u occasionally countered with less than 20, in those days.)

Two years ago, when classification was THE hot-button issue, people fretted because Damien had "only" 48 players on its roster.

Forty-eight players!

And that's a small school.

These days, Konawaena has lost its dynastic supremacy over the league (though it won titles in 1998 and 1999 and shared one in 2001) while losing some of its enrollment when new Kealakehe High School opened up down the road. But the Wildcats still suited up 55 in last year's preseason opener, according to a Star-Bulletin report.

Is that a small school?

That's the question. Where to draw the line. How. And why. That's what will make this tournament work.

It's a delicate task. A second tournament will create a second set of powers, but there will still be teams on the bottom, with no chance to even dream of winning it all.

When it comes to classification, it never ends. I covered high school football in Nebraska when there were seven state champions, including two 8-man divisions (you know, the big 8-man schools and the small 8-man schools) and 6-man. You could keep going forever.

But these guys can't. If approved, this will be one cut, and it has to be the right one. It has to be the one that people can get behind, that makes sense. That makes people believe.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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