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Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveJanuary 17, 2018, 10:54pm
Wed, Jan 17, 2018 @ Kaiser
HAWAII KAI — No. 4 Kalani and No. 5 Kaiser entered Wednesday's showdown tied atop the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I East standings.
That's the same way they exited the day following a 1-1 tie before a crowd of about 500 fans at Kaiser Stadium.
The Falcons took the lead with about five minutes left in the first half on a header by Jason Strambu. However, the Cougars got the equalizer on a Bay Nickerson goal just minutes before the end of the second half.
A strong cross wind from mauka to makai dictated much of the game. Each team scored with the wind at its back.
"It was definitely a priority for us, choosing to go with the wind in the first half. At least for momentum's sake, we knew that we needed one in the first half," Kalani co-coach Brandon Chun said.
Despite having to go into the wind, Kaiser largely had the better run of play in the first half and nearly came away unscathed until Strambu scored in the 35th minute.
The scoring play began with a throw-in from the left sideline by Keoni Ichiyama, whose toss sailed across the 18-yard box to the far post and found Strambu, whose header hit the bottom of the crossbar and barely crossed the plane of the goal. After a brief discussion between the center official and the assistant referee, the goal was confirmed.
Although it marked the first time his team trailed in a game this season, Cougars coach Layne Abalos said their optimism remained high.
"That's how it goes," Abalos said of the Strambu goal. "We knew we had the wind in the second half and we knew there was a lot of soccer left to play, so we didn't hang our heads."
However, it was the Falcons who came out strong in the early parts of the second half.
"The message to them at halftime was just to come out and play our game, settle down — I think the first half we definitely were out of sorts even with the wind — but I definitely think we settled down to start the second half and starting playing more possession, especially in those first 10 minutes," Chun said.
As the half went on, the tide turned in favor of the home team.
Kaiser pepped the Kalani goal in the final 20 minutes. A stoppage in the 59th minute for an injured Kalani player gave Motoki Sato a chance at a 45-yard indirect free kick on the restart. Sato curled in a right-footed shot to near the top of the 6-yard box, but a header attempt by Makana Srivongsana was just wide left of the goal.
A few minutes later, Srivongsana fired a left-footed shot on goal from about 12 yards out, but it was stopped by goalkeeper Sena Morimoto for one of his five saves in the match. At about the 70-minute mark, another scramble ensued in the Falcons' box after a corner kick by Sato found the feet of several of his teammates. Srivongsana had a chance at it, as did Aaron Rivas — twice, in fact — but neither could find the back of the net.
It wasn't until the 78th minute that the Cougars pulled even.
Rivas found the back post with his throw-in from the right sideline. It appeared to deflect off several players in the 6-yard box before Nickerson slid in and put it past Morimoto and into the goal.
"It was a great throw-in by Aaron and a heads-up play by Bay to be there on the back post," Abalos said.
It was the first goal allowed by either team this season.
Kaiser registered 18 shots — 15 of them coming in the second half — and put six of them on frame, while Kalani had three of its seven shots on goal.
"I actually thought we played better in the first half than the second, but I guess we did just enough," Abalos said.
Brandon Yasue made two saves in goal for the Cougars.
Despite losing a late lead, the positives outweighed the negatives for Chun.
"I think definitely the momentum started to shift with all the set pieces, but at the same time, I thought we played an amazing second half," Chun said. "The defender had to come out and hats off to Kaiser, they capitalized and it led to that goal."
Both teams are now 8-0-1 on the team and remain tied for first place with 25 championship points.
The 10-game regular season ends Saturday. Kaiser will play host to Kalaheo (4-4-1) at 3:30 p.m., while Kalani will host Kaimuki (0-9) at 4 p.m.
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Leif Fautanu was just a freshman in 2016, when the Jr. 'Bows won the Div. II state crown.
Kalani's Halunajan, Birdsong defeated Roosevelt head-to-head for the grand championship.
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