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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 12, 2023, 7:17am
Sat, Feb 11, 2023 @ Waipio
WAIPAHU — Coronation complete.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Iolani Raiders are kings of the pitch.
No. 3 Iolani captured its 10th state crown and first since 2014 with its win over top-ranked Mililani in the title game of the Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I Boys Soccer State Championships Saturday night. The game went to a penalty-kick shootout, where the Raiders prevailed over the Trojans, 4-3.
A crowd of about 2,200 fans at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium saw Iolani, the tournament No. 2 seed behind Mililani, win its third game in as many days to finish the season with a record of 9-1-3.
And for the third consecutive day, penalty kicks factored largely into the results for the Raiders. In a 3-2 win over Waiakea in Thursday's quarterfinals, a Kaleb Abara penalty kick served as the golden goal in the fifth minute of overtime. In a semifinal win over Kalani Friday, Iolani rallied from down two-nil with three second-half goals, the final one coming on an Abara PK.
Saturday's championship final was more of the same for the Raiders. After they allowed a Mililani goal in the fifth minute, they equalized in the 60th when Abara converted a penalty kick.
The score remained tied through 80 minutes of regulation and another 20 between two overtime periods. Abara led off the PK shootout for his team, but his shot was deflected after a diving save by goalkeeper Kobi Miyamoto. However, Tanner Shum came up with a sprawling save of his own on a shot by Mililani's Kai Martin.
"Before the PK shootout started, I already knew, first kick, I'm going right," Shum said. "That's just the side I start with."
It was just the momentum the Raiders needed, interim co-coach Travis Watanabe said.
"We practice (PKs) all week, but to have a guy between the posts, knowing that he's gonna make one or two saves is very, very reassuring to us," Watanabe said of the junior keeper.
Shum expressed that his stop was much-needed after Miyamoto swung the momentum, ever so slightly, in favor of the Trojans.
"Yeah, I feel like their first save helped push their team to keep going and I had to do the same for my team," Shum said.
"My coach, Stephen Fung, he's always preached fundamentals. That's what me and the other goalies always do at practice: we just drill the fundamentals, I feel like that's what got me here," Shum added.
Both teams converted their next three PKs — Noah Scherman, Ian Yogi and Brett Nakao for Iolani; Keegan McGehee, Xander Tamashiro and Parker Patterson for Mililani — before Keane Palmer put his shot into the lower right corner to put the Raiders ahead, 4-3. The Trojans were unable to answer with their final PK, which hit the crossbar and was no good.
"Two quality teams battling it out is really what we saw," Trojans coach Steve McGehee said. "We finally settled down probably the last twenty minutes of that (second) half and we started moving the ball around and we started having opportunities and you know, we just kind of didn't take care of it at the end and unfortunately we had to finish it out in PKs."
While the Trojans were dealt a heartbreaking loss to end the year — their only loss all season — the Raiders reveled in their triumph that seemed less-than-likely after a 2-1-1 start to the Interscholastic League of Honolulu play.
Shum said that a 2-0 loss at Kamehameha on Jan. 4 spurred the team's turnaround.
"This team, we had a lot of doubters at the start of the season and I feel like, right here, this is our defining moment. We came through, we fought through every battle. Our one loss against Kamehameha, that was our bounce-back game. We didn't play the best the first half of the ILH season, but that game lit a spark in us that I've never seen before and we just came back from that," Shum reflected.
For Watanabe, it's another chapter in his long-winded history with the program. Watanabe was a member of the Iolani team that won the state championship in 2000 and served as an assistant on two other state championship-winning teams.
"It never gets old, man, the feeling never gets old. You know, I won one as a player, but to lead these boys through this season has been incredible and special for me, too," Watanabe said.
Mililani got out to an early lead after it recycled a corner kick by Mau Uiagalelei into a goal via a header by Xander Tamashiro. The goal came just five minutes into the contest.
"Obviously we don't want to give up goals in the first ten minutes — that was one of the reinforcements that we stated, you know, we can't go down because of how good of a team they are — but again, these guys battled and battled and battled and just showed what kind go fit we got," Watanabe said of his bunch.
Iolani nearly equalized just seconds before the end of the first half, but Abara's free kick from 26 yards out hit the crossbar.
The Raiders continued to keep the ball in the attacking third in the early parts of the second half. At the 57-minute mark, a corner kick led to a shot on goal by Brett Nakao, but a Mililani defender made a leaping header to deny an Iolani goal.
Three minutes later, however, a foul in the box against the Trojans gave Iolani a penalty kick, which Abara buried into the right side of the goal for the equalizer.
"Awesome," Watanabe said. "I mean, it's just the usual, right? The first ten minutes we give up a goal and the next seventy we battle, but I'm so proud of these kids and the never-give-up attitude, the grit that they show representing our team, our program and Iolani School."
Mililani (15-1-0) was seeking its seventh state title and firt since 2015.
"I can't be any prouder of the boys. They put in the time every day in training, in all the games — we're twenty-four deep, twenty-three during the regular season — you know, there are a lot of things to be proud of their season," McGehee said. "They shouldn't let this stop them from being happy about what we achieved."
Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Boys Soccer State ChampionshipsDivision I All-Tournament Team
Jenson Fuse, KalaniShane Fuse, KalaniKaumualii "Leha" Harman, HiloKeao Kawaakoa, IolaniKeegan McGehee, MililaniBrett Nakao, IolaniKeane Palmer, IolaniParker Patterson, MililaniEthan Senter, KalaniJustin Tilton, MililaniMau Uiagalelei, MililaniTanner Shum, Iolani (GK)
Most Outstanding Player: Kaleb Abara, Iolani
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