MAKIKI — Punahou kicked off the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season with a strong finish on a chilly late afternoon at Alexander Field Tuesday.
The reigning Division I state champion Buffanblu (1-0) got late goals from Max Moonier and Taiga Chang in a five-minute span, the latter coming within a mere half-minute of the final whistle, in a frantic finish to a 2-1 win over the visiting Raiders (0-1).
The matchup came just three days after the teams faced off in Saturday's final preseason tune-up. Punahou came away with a 1-0 win over Iolani to claim third place of the 808 Prep Soccer Showcase at Kapolei, but Tuesday's "rematch" certainly had a different feel.
"Iolani had some JV guys, I had some guys that we were still trying out and we ended up releasing after, but it's kind of weird when we're two days before we gotta play each other, so we just threw in our extras and we didn't want to show anything and they did the same thing, so it was a totally different game today," Buffanblu coach David Trifonovitch said.
Iolani led for most of the contest following Brandon Simon's header in the 15th minute. The goal was set-up by Alex Liu's corner kick.
The score held until the 78th minute when Johnnie Dodge drew a foul inside the Raiders' 18-yard box, resulting in a successful penalty kick by Moonier.
Moonier went lower, left corner with the PK, while Iolani goalie Kaisen Nakagawa dove in the opposite direction.
"That gave us the boost we needed to finish. It really did," Chang said of Moonier's game-tying goal. "I honestly thought like, ‘this might be it,' but then he got the penalty (kick) and I felt like we got a little bit more fired up and ready to go."
A few minutes later, Dodge set-up Punahou's other score. He served a corner kick into the box and Chang got his head on it and put it into the back of the net for the winning goal.
"We've been practicing our set-up for our corners, so we have like five in the back and we all go up in different positions, so maybe not at the 18, but at the 6-yard line we'd all stand there and then go," said Chang, a senior midfielder. "We've been practicing that a lot, so I'm glad that worked."
Chang said he was very cognizant of the time left in the match.
"I was just running super fast. I think I was out of breath already, but it came down to the last corner and I just thought like maybe I'll give it my all here, it's probably the last play and so I weaved through the defender and I luckily got it in," Chang said.
Trifonovitch credited Dodge, a first-year varsity player, for his part in setting up both scores.
"He's a very composed player," Trifonovitch said of the sophomore midfielder. "He came into Punahou as a freshman and we watched him through JV last year and we said, ‘This kid can play,' and by summer time we already knew that he needed to be up on the varsity and he's earned his starting spot. He's going to be contributing, I think, for years to come."
The Buffanblu turned the tables with 10 shots on goals after halftime after managing just one in the first 40 minutes.
"As far as not giving up, I think that this really helps us," Trifonovitch said. "It'll help us knowing that anytime now throughout the season, we can always have that ability to come back if we have to."
Iolani registered only two shots on goal, one in each half.
Ian Withy-Berry made two saves in goal for the Buffanblu, while Nakagawa posted eight stops for the Raiders.
"It's an opening match and there's a long season ahead of us," Iolani coach Chris Lee said. "Usually, Iolani and Punahou don't play this early in the season, but I think they took their chances better today than us, so that's the reason they were able to get the result today."
Iolani visits Saint Louis Monday, while Punahou will host PAC-5 Tuesday.
The Raiders will host the Buffanblu in a second-round meeting on Jan. 11.
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