Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Buffanblu deny Trojans to retain D1 state crown, 22nd overall title


Sat, Feb 15, 2020 @ Waipio

Final 1st 2nd OT 2OT PK Tot
Mililani (13-3-1) 1 1 - - - 2
Punahou (11-1-1) 2 1 - - - 3
J. Dodge (78’)   N. Edwards (2’)   S. Uson (80’)   R. Daijo (26’)   L. McGehee (6’)

WAIPAHU — The state's gold-standard program in boys soccer just keeps adding to its trophy case.

Johnnie Dodge assisted on an early goal and scored one of his own late Saturday night to lift top-seeded Punahou to a 3-2 win over unseeded Mililani in the title game of The Queen's Medical Center/HHSAA Division I State Championships.

A crowd of about 2,400 fans saw the Buffanblu (11-1-1) claim their second straight state title on a blustery evening at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium. It is their fourth championship in five years and their record 22nd in the 47-year history of the state tournament.

"It feels great," said Dodge, a senior midfielder and third-year varsity player. "I don't know, people dream of nights like these, but we're lucky enough to get to these nights and we work hard all year — we put in the work all year — coming to practice early, staying late, getting in the ice bath every day, working hard during conditioning, all of that."

The Trojans (13-3-1) were seeking their first state title since 2015 and seventh overall.

The defending champions pounced on Mililani very early. Just two minutes into the contest, Noah Edwards intercepted a pass near midfield. He then found Dominic Gusman with a pass toward the left sideline. Gusman dribbled back toward the center of the field, then dropped off a pass to Dodge, who took three touches before lofting a left-footed pass forward to Edwards in the 18-yard box. Edwards trapped the ball with his chest, then managed to finish the goal with his right foot as he was falling.

"I got the ball from (Gusman) and then I just cut it on my left foot," Dodge recalled. "Then in the corner of my eye I saw Noah Edwards and I just tried to get the ball in and then he was able to finish it."

Buffanblu coach David Trifonovitch credited Dodge for the set-up and Edwards, a junior midfielder, for knocking in the goal, but cautioned his team to maintain its focus.

"It was a beautiful goal, but when you get those early goals you can get complacent," Trifonovitch said. "I'm yelling out there right away, ‘keep the intensity up' and we had to keep going."

Trifonovitch's concern came to fruition just a few minutes later. Center-back Treyden Buder-Nakasone was whistled for a foul in the box against Mililani forward Jordan Fernandez. Liam McGehee converted the subsequent penalty kick with his shot into the lower right corner to equalize in the sixth minute.

"Maybe I did it too much and Treyden just whacked that guy in the box and I'm going ‘oh, my gosh,' but you know, it happens. The adrenaline gets going and it made for an interesting game, so it was nice that we could get the second one and hold on to that lead for a while," Trifonovitch said.

Punahou's second goal came on a restart. A Mililani foul gave Moore a free kick from about 25 yards out, which he served toward the middle of the 6-yard box, where Rayden Daijo headed in the go-ahead goal to the right side of the net.

"It just all fell into place. It was a great ball by Jacob and I just saw the ball and followed in the air and then I just jumped up and hoped for the best and I just saw it go in the back of the net and that's all you can wish for," said Daijo, whose score gave his team a 2-1 lead in the 26th minute.

It was the very first goal of the season for the junior outside-back.

Trifonovitch said that Daijo has had limited opportunities to contribute offensively. Typically, center-backs Buder-Nakasone and Laakea Salvani will push up on set pieces, but the former was playing through some muscle cramping, while the latter did not play at all after he was red-carded Friday in Punahou's semifinal win over Kalani.

"Normally (Daijo) doesn't go up there because it's Laa and Treyden — (but) Laa was out, Treyden we were trying to conserve because he was cramping, so we didn't want him going up and having to get back — so we said tonight we're going with Kaeo (Wongbusarakum) and Rayden, and Rayden was the guy that got up there and put it in the net, so I'm very happy that he was able to do it," Trifonovitch said.

The Queen’s Medical Center/HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships
(As selected by the HHSAA and the media)

Division I All-Tournament Team
Kai Biegler, Waiakea
Treyden Buder-Nakasone, Punahou
Travis Brubaker, Kalani
Jvon Cunningham, Mililani
Rayden Daijo, Punahou
Johnnie Dodge, Punahou
John Grover, Waiakea
Dominic Gusman, Punahou
Liam McGehee, Mililani
Ethan Senter, Kalani
Goalkeeper: Cade Matsumoto, Punahou
Most Outstanding: Jacob Moore, Punahou

Wongbusarakum filled in at center-back for Salvani, who was ineligible for the game, and drew the praise of Daijo, his fellow defender.  

"Kaeo did a great job filling in for Laa. He really stepped up today and he really made a bunch of great tackles back there in stopping a lot of the plays," Daijo said.

Although Wongbusarakum is a reserve for the ever-talented Buffanblu, he played a similar role for the team in last year's state tournament, when Buder-Nakasone was out for the championship match.

"Kaeo is a senior and he did the exact same thing last year, because Treyden got hospitalized and he had to be replaced," Trifonovitch recalled. "Kaeo stepped in that night and played phenomenally — same thing he did tonight. He had to step in for Laa and he played phenomenal; he had a great game."

Dodge, who is signed with Sonoma State, said he and his teammates knew that Wongbusarakum would be up to the task.

"He already has that experience in the state final (last year), playing the whole game, so I felt like he managed it well. He's always calm and collected on the ball, so that really helped us out," Dodge said.

The Trojans had a chance to tie it yet again with about four minutes left in the first half. A Punahou foul just a yard outside of the 18-yard box gave McGehee a direct free kick, but his shot sailed over the goal.

Mililani had a couple of opportunities in the 72nd minute. Jvon Cunningham sent a cross from the right side that Joshua Ishizaka managed to get a head on near the back post. Ishizaka's header went back across the front of the goal and found the feet of temmate Noah Fujikane, but Fujikane was unable to get a shot off and Buffanblu goalkeeper Cade Matsumoto eventually covered up the loose ball in the box to end the scoring threat.

A collision between Mililani goalkeeper Nicholas Gaston and Gusman in the 78th minute resulted in a foul against Gaston and a PK for Punahou. Dodge, who was celebrating his 18th birthday Saturday, delivered an insurance goal with his shot into the lower right side of the goal; Gaston guessed left.

"I felt very confident that I was going to score," Dodge said. "I know Nick (Gaston), we play on the same team so he kind of knows where I'm going so I just put it to the other side this time and it went in."

The Trojans got a late goal on Seth Uson's shot from distance in the final swconds to close out the scoring.

"We had some ideas on how to attack them, we didn't do a great job in the sense of dealing with the long ball and got beat a couple of times over the top — that kind of put us on the back foot — but overall I'm proud of my guys," Mililani coach Steve McGehee said. "They left it on the field, that's all I can ask them to do."

It is Punahou's sixth state title under Trifonovitch, all since 2010. He surpassed Bob Barry, who led Iolani to five state champions between 1974 and 1988, for second all-time in state championships. Trifonovitch now trails only legendary Buffanblu coach Bob Clague, who captured 16 titles during his 34 seasons leading the program.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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