High school football: Three-tiered state tournament gets green light

The three-tiered state football tournament is sticking around.

The three-tiered state football tournament is sticking around.

Representatives of the five leagues across the state — OIA, ILH, BIIF, KIF and MIL — voted in favor of three divisions of four teams on Friday morning on Oahu.

“I am pleased that the leagues through the football committee came together to create this format, which maintains three divisions and competitive balance in our football state tournaments” HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun said in a statement. “I would like to thank the league executive directors and football coordinators for making this happen. I believe that this new format improves on what was already a successful pilot last year.”

There are a few changes, however.

The top tier — now known formally as Division I-Open — will consist of the OIA’s best three teams and the ILH’s Division I champ.

The Division I bracket will play host to mostly outerisland squads, with the DI champions from the BIIF, MIL and KIF being in the mix, as well as either Damien or Saint Francis from the ILH.

Division II will consist of either Iolani or Pac-Five out of the ILH, the OIA DII champion, as well as the BIIF and MIL DII champs.

The biggest change is the sheer number of teams who will be eligible for the tournament. During the pilot year of the three-tiered system, 20 teams made it — six in Open, eight in DI and six in DII.

Now, only 12 will have a shot at tournament play, and the BIIF saw its number of teams drop from three to two. Last season, the BIIF DI champion and runner-up earned tournament berths, as well as the league’s DII winner.

However, the BIIF did little to warrant its second DI spot. Waiakea made the tournament with a 3-9 overall record, falling to Campbell 48-0 in a first round game.

The decision comes on the heels of some drama involving the OIA announcing at the HIADA meeting last month in Waikoloa that it would be keeping its top teams out of the “Open Division.” The move would have crippled the three-tier format, leaving the state’s top division for the ILH and any outerisland team that wanted to throw its hat in the ring (that being said, no outerisland team has ever won a DI/Open state title).

This compromise allows just one ILH team into the Division I-Open, leaving the private school powerhouses Punahou, Saint Louis and Kamehameha battling it out for a single berth.

The OIA will have three teams in the top division, but just one other outside of that, reserved for the league’s DII champ. That makes it — at least mathematically — the hardest league to earn a berth in, with just four out of 22 teams eligible for tourney berths.

This year’s state semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 3 for Division II, and Nov. 4 for Division I. The sites for those game have yet to be announced.

The Division I–Open will play its semifinal round Nov. 10 at Aloha Stadium. All three division championships will be played in a triple header on Nov. 18 at Aloha Stadium.