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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

System is to blame for prep routs

 •  Damien forfeits upset football players, parents
 •  Forfeiting is wrong, Damien grad says
 •  What do you think of Damien's decision? Join our discussion

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

The surprise isn't that Damien Memorial High School is talking the drastic step of forfeiting its football games against powerful St. Louis School.

The wonder should be that it has taken this long for a school to throw up its hands in frustration at a system that cries out for change.

For while Damien might be the most visible, it is far from alone when it comes to absorbing one-sided football defeats these days. Nor are the Crusaders the only ones regularly inflicting them.

Mismatches are no longer rarities. No more are they limited to a single powerhouse or one league. Twenty-four times last season on O'ahu, or about three times a week, somebody, somewhere was dishing out a 40-point or wider defeat. Four schools lost a third of their games by 40 points or more.

And there's only so much that so-called "mercy" rules and artificial roster limits can do about it. They are symptoms of the problem, not solutions.

What is happening here is that several dominant programs are putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. And more schools are struggling just to be competitive.

Small wonder then that the turnout in players is down at several non-contending schools. Some varsity programs barely have enough players to finish their seasons. Others are a couple hamstrings and a separated shoulder away from disaster. More junior varsity programs are being dropped.

So apparent has the stratification become that, with few exceptions, you can pretty much fill in the final rounds of the state playoff brackets at the start of the season.

It is enough to make you wonder why Hawai'i might remain the only state association without a statewide classification system. Why Alaska and New Hampshire have more equitable systems than we do.

Mixing and matching Interscholastic League of Honolulu and O'ahu Interscholastic Association schools and classifying them based upon enrollments, turnout, history and preference would allow teams to more fairly find their niches. Throw in the Neighbor Island leagues come state playoff time and it would match, to the competitive betterment of all, teams based on resources and numbers.

Why not let the big boys, St. Louis, Kahuku, Wai'anae, Kamehameha, etc., slug it out? Give the likes of Roosevelt and Waipahu a shot at finding a happy medium. Allow Waialua and Kalani an opportunity to chase a title.

Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association, last year proposed a two-tier system classification. Two years ago, Clay Benham, executive director of the ILH, presented perhaps the best of all, a workable model for a three-tier system of nine teams each. Either would be preferable to what now exists.

Any system that would drive an administration to consider forfeiting games is one that demands change.