Kalani Earns Tough Win Over Kamehameha Maui
By Rodney S. Yap
Playing tough matches in their league every week, helped the Kalani High School boys soccer team survive a physical quarterfinal match on Neighbor Island soil Saturday.
The Falcons advanced to the semifinals of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Boys State Soccer Championships for the third time in four years by rallying for a 2-1 victory over Maui Interscholastic League champion Kamehameha Maui.
“I’m shocked and unbelievably proud of our boys,” said Kalani head coach Michael Ching. “KS-Maui is so good. To beat them here is no small feat. They are so good, so to beat them here in a physical game and with the crowd in their favor is special and I am unbelievably proud.”
Kalani will play defending state champion and top-seed Iolani on Friday, Feb. 27, at Waipio Soccer Stadium. The Falcons are now 13-1-1. The Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up capped its first postseason road trip 2-0, beating Moanalua 3-0 in Friday’s first-round action.
Falcon goalkeeper Michael Stafford blocked a penalty kick with 4 minutes remaining to seal the dramatic quarterfinal victory in the Warriors’ backyard at Kana’iaupuni Stadium in Pukalani.
Stafford broke to his left on the shot attempt by Kamehameha’s Micah Alo and managed to get his glove on the ball at the doorstep of the goal — keeping it out when the ball hit the side post and ricocheted back to a teammate.
Kalani matched the Warriors’ physically and successfully executed its defensive game plan with Stafford anchored in goal and veteran defender Garrison Nakamura in center-back, marking Warrior strikers Alo, Brennan Joaquin and Nainoa Silva.
“No. 1 it starts with our goalie and I truly believe that he’s the best in the state,” noted Ching. “I think he proved it on the PK. Unreal, I didn’t get to see it actually cause I (close my eyes) don’t look at PKs. And all year we’ve been saying: ‘Is No. 12 Garrison Nakamura a good center-back or is he better at outside and should we use No. 15 (Toshi Kosins) inside?’ ”
“I think we are just beginning to gel. But I tell them that if we give up one goal, we’re going to win — because we don’t give up goals, we’ve given up maybe three goals all year with our starting keeper. So we feel like if we give up one and score two we are going to win.”
For the previously unbeaten Warriors, the season comes to an end at 8-1-2.
“I knew it was going to be a physical game, but not that physical. All we could do was try and match it and do our best,” said Kamehameha defender and captain Bryant Kubo. “I thought we played a really good game, but so did Kalani. Sometimes things just don’t go your way . . . you can’t win all of them. We kept pushing and pushing, but we just couldn’t get anything. Their keeper is really good, I’ve played against him on Oahu. I respect him and the whole team, they played really well and all I can do is wish them the best of luck next week in the semifinals.”
Joaquin’s goal put Kamehameha Maui on the scoreboard first, ripping an assist from Paytin Ayau with his right foot to the opposite side far post. The 20-yard laser came off Joaquin’s foot in such a hurry, Stafford, who was guarding the near post, could not react.
“I know that I did everything I could and all of my teammates did the best they could,” said Colton Cabanas, one of eight Kamehameha Maui seniors. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. We fought through and did what we could. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through this with anybody else, these guys are my brothers.”
Alo, a two-time, all-state tournament selection, and goal keeper Keola Paredes took the loss the hardest. Paredes was outstanding in goal, particularly in the first half when the Falcons had the wind at their backs. And Alo, arguably the best player in the MIL, was terrific at both ends of the field, even when double covered in the Warriors’ attacking zone.
Silva also battled to find a crease in the Falcons’ defense, working hard to create chances for himself and his teammates — only to see his efforts go awry the closer he worked toward the goal. Several times Silva had to pick himself off the stadium turf in frustration.
“The way I look at it, and the way my dad taught me, is once it’s done, flush it — you can’t do anything about it so move on to the next thing,” said Cabanas.
“The next time we have to capitalize and execute,” said Joaquin, a junior. “It was fun, but it’s the past already. I feel bad for Micah and the seniors, but I got to give it to them, especially Micah, he played with so much heart this whole season.”
Nakamura agreed that playing the number of close games the team plays in the OIA prepares them for unfamiliar challenges like coming to the Valley Isle and facing the home team.
“We’re used to this,” he said of his team’s down-to-the-wire victories. “In the OIA we were in two overtimes, two double overtimes and one of them went to PKs.”
Kalani’s Rudi McClellan scored the tying goal, 1-1, with 8 minutes left in the first half. Trevor Kakuda interrupted a very intense second half with the go-ahead goal in the 50th minute.
“Our defensive game plan was to drop deep and not let them get breakaways on us. We saw film on them and knew that Nos. 11 (Joaquin) and 4 (Alo) had speed and skill, so we wanted to force them in the middle and try to get them to take it one-on-one and for us to clean it up.”
Ching said, “We joke about it, but we never have easy games.”
And as far as playing physical, Ching added: “We preach playing what the referee will give us. So if he’s going to let us bang then we got to bang, if they want to call it tight we have to be ready for that. We know in games like this that every ball is so highly contested so we preach: “Go hard, run through it and usually in the state tournament that’s how it is. We hell and them so much because that’s how it is in the state tournament and for the guys who don’t go hard and run through it, they don’t play.”
Also on Saturday, Baldwin ended its season with a 4-0 victory over Hilo in a consolation game at Kapolei. Jaren Ariyoshi had two goals for the Bears (9-3-1).