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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveJanuary 29, 2023, 1:01am
Sat, Jan 28, 2023 @ Kaiser
HAWAII KAI — This one was for Andre.
Playing without its top goal scorer, top-ranked Mililani netted a pair of goals after halftime and came away with a 2-0 win over No. 2 Kalani to successfully defend its Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I boys soccer title Saturday night.
Kilika Hasegawa scored in the 59th minute and Ethan Funtanilla in the 64th to lift the Trojans (13-0) past the Falcons (11-1-1) and to their record-18th league championship before a crowd of about 400 fans at Kaiser Stadium.
"Toughest team we've played all season," Mililani coach Steve McGehee said of previously-unbeaten Kalani.
To McGehee's point, the Falcons have 10 shutouts to their credit, including their first seven matches to start the regular season. More recently, they were coming off of a 3-0 win over Radford in Tuesday's tournament quarterfinals and a 2-0 victory over Kapolei in Thursday's semifinal round.
Furthermore, Kalani had allowed only two goals all season prior to Saturday.
In the end, however, the Falcons were shut out for the first time all year, while Mililani kept its record unblemished on the year and managed to do so without its top goal scorer in senior Andre Estaniqui. The center forward has accounted for 24 goals this season, but was ineligible for the championship game due to a red card he received in the second half of the Trojans' 1-0 semifinal win over Kaiser in overtime Thursday.
"We're fortunate to have replacements. The boys have worked hard all season, coach Alika (Cosner) and the rest of the crew just put a tremendous amount of effort into getting them organized and we did a good job of executing," McGehee said.
With regard to Estaniqui's absence, among those McGehee praised for stepping up was sophomore Tayeden Lau.
"Tayeden did, all the guys did," he said. "We knew what we had to do in the sense of slow them down, especially with the wind in the first half and we were able to kind of control the game that way, which was the most important thing."
The game remained scoreless through the first 40 minutes of play, which was just fine by the Trojans — who played into a prevailing wind and heavy rains for the first half.
"We were really strategizing our play because going against the wind is crazy," said Funtanilla, a junior forward. "Because the wind was still going pretty fast and it was raining pretty hard, if we got the first half out of the way I feel like the second one will come and we'll be able to move our momentum."
McGehee said his coaching staff drew from prior experiences of playing in inclement weather at Kaiser Stadium — including Thursday's semifinal win over the Cougars — to prepare for Saturday's title game.
"We were fortunate to come out here and play in junk conditions two days ago and some of our coaching staff remembers four or five years ago when we played Kapolei here and it was howling like this and we had to know what to do," said McGehee, who took the conditions into account during pregame warm-ups.
"When we were warming up, you could see that the wind was effecting us when we were shooting into it and we warmed up on the other side (Thursday), so we just said, ‘Take shots, guys,' and we got a couple of good looks at ‘em," McGehee said.
Hasegawa heeded his coach's words, did just that and it paid off in the form of his third goal of the year about midway through the second half. The sophomore gathered a ball on the right flank and quickly pulled the trigger on a right-footed shot from about 32 yards out that zipped past Kalani goalkeeper Robert Pruner and into the left side of the goal.
"I just saw the ball come out and I took my first touch and then I heard my teammates on the side just telling me to shoot and I just took the shot," Hasegawa recalled.
McGehee was pleased to see Hasegawa take advantage of the wind at his back and fire one on goal from distance.
"It was a great shot. I mean, we were telling him all day, ‘Take that shot,' and it was the first time that he kind of laid it square and that's about it," McGehee said.
Mililani continued to pepper the Falcons' goal in the coming minutes and added an insurance score not long after. After Jayden Sotelo's shot on goal was deflected by Pruner, the ricochet came off to Funtanilla on the back side of the play and the junior put it away with a diving header into the back of the net.
"We had a really good opportunity going forward so I knew there was a good chance of getting a rebound, so I really just committed really hard to the ball and knew the follow-up was there — because we practice these types of scenarios in practice, so I was really comfortable with it," Funtailla said of his sixth goal this season.
Funtanilla said filling the void left by Estaniqui's absence Saturday was pivotal to the final result.
"I feel like we all had to step up because Andre's really, like, the heart of our team and we always want to make him proud, so I feel like as a collective we all had to step up because he really leads us and he's, like, the heart of our team so we just wanted to make him proud and step up for him," Funtanilla said.
Hasegawa was quick to agree with his teammate.
"Honestly, I feel like that made us even more motivated that we had to make one of our seniors proud," he said.
The Trojans have shut out their last five opponents and recorded 11 shutouts on the year.
"I feel like we all handled business correctly," Funtanilla said. "We were doing our part and we played pretty good."
Much of the work, Funtanilla explained, came in the preparation.
"We knew that (the Falcons) were dominating the East, so we just had our eyes open and we really watched their games, learned how they played so that we could kind of counter them," he described. "We knew what we were expecting coming into the game."
Mililani, the top seed out of the Western Division, had a bye Monday, then beat West fifth seed Campbell, 4-0, in a quarterfinal Tuesday.
The Trojans will have one of four seeded berths at the upcoming D1 state tournament, which gets underway with four first-round games on Feb. 6. They will have a bye into the tournament quarterfinals on Feb. 9.
Kalani was seeking its third OIA championship. It also won league crowns in 2016 and 2018.
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