HHSAA Boys Soccer
Unseeded Trojans topple second-seeded Hurricanes


Thu, Feb 13, 2020 @ Waipio

Final 1st 2nd OT 2OT PK Tot
Mililani (13-3-1) 1 0 - - - 1
Kapolei (14-1-1) 0 0 - - - 0
L. McGehee (27')

WAIPAHU — Jordan Fernandez gave his team a chance and Liam McGehee cashed in.

McGehee's penalty kick goal in the 27th minute was the difference in No. 7 Mililani's 1-0 win over No. 1 Kapolei in the quarterfinals of The Queen's Medical Center/HHSAA Division I Boys Soccer State Championship Thursday night.

The unseeded Trojans (12-2-1), who finished fifth in the Oahu Interscholastic Association tournament two weeks ago, handed the OIA champion and tournament No. 2 seed Hurricanes (12-1-1) their first loss of the season.

Mililani will play ninth-ranked and third-seeded Waiakea in the 5 p.m. semifinal Friday at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex main stadium. The Warriors won their quarterfinal bout with No. 5 Kalaheo, 2-1, in overtime.

Wednesday's state quarterfinal marked the second meeting between the Trojans and 'Canes this season. They played to a scoreless tie on Dec. 27 at John Kauinana Stadium in OIA West play.

Much like their first game, neither team was able to generate much in the way of quality scoring chances Thursday night. They combined for just five shots on goal, three of them by Kapolei.

"I don't know if there was much difference quite honestly compared to the last time," Mililani coach Steve McGehee said. "I mean, we got a penalty kick, we converted it and that was the difference in the game."

In the regular-season contest the Hurricanes played down a man for the final 65 minutes after defender Cypress Navarro-Acio was yellow-carded twice early on. This time around they were without senior midfielder/forward Kawika Kelii, who was serving a two-game suspension after he threw a punch and was ejected from Kapolei's last game, a 5-0 win over Kalani in the OIA final.  

Liam McGehee, a senior midfielder and son of the coach, said that Kelii's absence did little to affect the Trojans' game planning.

"Overall their team is a really good team — all around just ballers — so no matter where any one of them was on the field it was always a challenge for us and I mean, just the score being one-zero throughout the game showed how close of a game it was," he said. "There were battles everywhere on the field and so I think, if anything, they remain great in every position despite not having one of their main assets."

With Kelii out Kapolei pushed Navarro-Acio forward to a wing attacker position, a move that Steve McGehee anticipated somewhat.

"As a coach you try to figure out, 'how would I beat myself?,' and the way I would beat myself is to put Cypress higher up the field, which they did and he was a handful. Thankfully he and Tommy (Mascaro-Keahi) didn't connect like I've seen them do, I mean, they got a couple of options but they did not create a ton of opportunity, but like they did, I would put Cypress higher because he's such a dynamic player and I only have total respect for the kid; he's awesome," coach McGehee said.

Mililani goalkeeper Nicholas Gaston (6) had three saves on the evening to grab the shutout between the posts. Spencer Honda | SL    Purchase image

Kelii scored goals for the Hurricanes in both their OIA semifinal win over Kalaheo and two nights later against the Falcons. His 10 goals on the year are tied for second most on the team.

Kapolei co-coach Ryan Lau said Kelii's suspension was a lot to overcome, but would not use it as a crutch for the loss.

"No excuses, because we had over a week to prepare and that's the unfortunate part is we prepared to play a certain way and we worked on especially our final-third actions and it just wasn't there tonight. It's a team game and (Kelii) is a very impactful player, but we needed to pull through as a team," Lau said.

The 'Canes attempted four corner kicks in the first 20 minutes of the game, but were unable to parlay any into shots on goal. Their best scoring chance of the night came in the 19th minute, when Mascaro-Keahi — who has netted a state-best 22 goals this season — put a solid strike on a ball from about 25 yards out. However, Mililani goalkeeper Nicholas Gaston made a leaping two-grabbed grab on Mascaro-Keahi's shot for one of his three saves on the night.

"Nick's a quality 'keeper, he just doesn't believe in himself sometimes and we've kind of worked on the psychological side of it and told him that, 'you know, you cannot just be good, you have to be big in these types of situations, these tournaments,' and he's been money," said Steve McGehee, whose team was coming off of a 2-0 win at Kamehameha-Maui in Monday's play-in round.

"He was money on Maui and he was money here today," he said.

About eight minutes later, the Trojans got the break that they needed. Senior forward Jordan Fernandez was taken to the ground in the 18-yard box, which drew a whistle from the center referee for a Kapolei foul.

"(Fernandez) used his body in the box and the defenders came through him and he was in the right place at the right time, good use of his body," Liam McGehee recalled of the play that ultimately sent him to the penalty spot.

On the PK itself, McGehee lined up his shot before turning his back to Kapolei 'keeper Dallas Williams-Canincia. He then took a few steps away from the ball and to the side and quickly turned around and began his run-up before putting away the shot into the lower left side of the goal.

"I played football my sophomore and junior year and a lot of my warm-ups when I was kicking off or doing PATs or field goals was that type of run-up and I found that I like it better than waiting for the ref to blow his whistle, so it's different but I like it," said McGehee, an All-Hawaii First Team selection last year.

McGehee, who recently signed to play collegiately for Whitworth (Spokane, Washington), missed a PK in Mililani's OIA quarterfinal loss to Kalani. The Trojans have won four straight since then, but McGehee said the missed opportunity had weighed on him heavily until Thursday.

"After that I kept working on them in practice. Even though it's a small part of the game, it can make or break a game and I took that really seriously," McGehee said. "I felt really bad after missing against Kalani. As a team that game helped us realized that we can't lose anymore and we've been working on keeping that mindset in practice ever since that loss, so we really took it to heart."

The Trojans immediately bounced back from the loss to the Falcons with a 4-0 win over Moanalua and a 3-1 victory over Pearl City on consecutive days. Steve McGehee said the setback helped the team refocus for the state tournament.

"It was one of those eye-openers in the sense that, I've always told the boys that we have the ability to compete with everyone and lose to anyone and not to say that Kalani is someone that we should beat, but we had our chances early — missed a penalty kick, missed a couple of open-netters — and then lost in PKs, but hats off to Kalani for doing what they did to us," McGehee said.

Mililani will be making its second semifinal-round appearance in as many years. It lost in PKs to eventual-champion Punahou before going on to a fourth-place finish last season.

"I felt all around it was a team game today, definitely," Liam McGehee said. "It wasn't me who won the game, it was definitely the team. I scored a goal, but our defense and our attackers, they were providing on both sides of the ball, so I can't be more thankful."

While the Trojans' hunt for a seventh state championship will go on, the Hurricanes saw their quest for a first-ever title come to an abrupt end.

"I think it was eerily similar to the first match, not much opportunities. I didn't think we put our best foot forward — hats off to them, I think it was a grind-out win — I think the game was played a lot in the middle of the (field), not as many chances, but it's a quarterfinal game so the games are tough," Lau said. "I didn't think we pulled the trigger enough, as far as when we did get into the final third to shoot it. It was like we were playing for the perfect shot, but we really didn't have too much opportunities."

Kapolei will play Kalaheo in a consolation game at 3 p.m. Friday on field No. 15.

"It's a tough way to end the season for a really quality side," Steve McGehee said of the 'Canes. "But I give them props because they always give us a good game no matter who's playing, so it's always a fun game for us to be involved in."

The Hurricanes came away with a 2-0 win over the Mustangs when the teams met in the OIA semifinal round on Jan. 30.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].




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