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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveFebruary 11, 2024, 6:54am
Sat, Feb 10, 2024 @ Waipio
WAIPAHU — Different year, opposite perspective.
Nearly one year after experiencing the heartbreak of defeat — 364 days, to be exact — the Mililani boys soccer team got to relish the elation of redemption.
Justin Tilton scored the game-winning goal on a header in the 69th minute to lead No. 1 Mililani to a 1-0 win over No. 2 Iolani in the title game of the Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I State Championships Saturday night.
A crowd of more than 2,000 fans at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex saw the Trojans finish off a perfect 16-0 season with their first state title since 2015 and their seventh overall crown.
"I honestly can't even describe what I'm feeling — I'm ecstatic, I'm happy," said Tilton, a senior center-back.
"We've wanted this since the beginning of our season. I'm a senior, too, so I knew that it had to come and just seeing that we were the ones raising the trophy this year, it just brought my senior year to a close," Tilton said.
A year ago it was Iolani who was hoisting the championship trophy after a thrilling title match that went to a penalty kick shootout.
"It's been a long time coming," Mililani coach Steve McGehee said. "The boys have worked hard all season long and actually for some of them, for three years. They've been here, they've tasted it and now they finally got over the hump."
Tilton's goal came off of a corner kick by Caleb Ishizaka. It was Mililani's third corner kick in a two-plus minute span.
"We had a lot of attack, we were getting a lot of set pieces around the box and it was bound to happen," Ishizaka stated.
Ishizaka placed his left-footed corner kick from the right flag into the 6-yard box directly in front of the goal. Tilton was able to get in front of a Iolani defender and lowered his head to meet the ball and put it past the goalkeeper and into the right side of the netting.
"It's just a routine, honestly. I picked my head up and we have positions where to put it in and I just put it in the two-slot, right on Justin's head and he just managed to put it away and it was a really good header," Ishizaka said.
Tilton, who was selected as the tournament's most outstanding player, tipped his cap to Ishizaka for his execution on the set piece.
"Obviously, Caleb did the majority of the work; He put a perfect pass in that box," he said. "We practice this day in, day out and I realize that if that ball is there, I gotta finish that and luckily I jumped up, I was there at the right time, right moment and I just put that away."
McGehee said that he expected it to come down to a dead ball situation.
"We thought that dead ball would be part of our game plan — I mean, it had to be," McGehee said. "They're a quality team, they're not going to be broken down easy and we had a feeling it would have to come from that kind of space and we got one."
For a team that allowed only two goals in 16 games all season, it was fitting that a defender accounted for the winning goal in the state championship match. McGehee was pleased, to say the least, to see Tilton cash in on the scoring chance.
"You know, finally. He's not won too many balls in the air, so thank God he came good tonight," McGehee said. "He is a good header, he just doesn't score enough goals for his height. You know, I would love to see him score 10 goals this season just from dead ball. I think he has the mechanics for it, at the next level he'll be able to show it off."
It was Tilton's fifth goal and first of the postseason. He had not found the back of the net since Jan. 2.
Motiv8 Foundation/HHSAA Division I Boys Soccer State ChampionshipsAll-Tournament TeamDivision IMike Kostecki, IolaniCaleb Ishizaka, MililaniKanata Kuwahara, BaldwinDevin Lee, IolaniAndrew Lovell, PunahouKeane Palmer, IolaniParker Patterson, MililaniGuinness Ruiz Rockett, Baldwin Lonokaehu Tuitele, PunahouMau Uiagalelei, MililaniSkyler Vail, MililaniGoalkeeper: Brayden Obrero, IolaniMost Outstanding Player: Justin Tilton, Mililani
"I don't know why but for headers I've definitely been in a slump. During the season I definitely should have put away more header goals than what I'm putting up right now, but despite the season it all just comes down to this game and finally putting that one away that matters, I'm happy for it," Tilton said.
Iolani did not record a shot on goal after halftime, but it did have a couple of opportunities in the attacking third in the final minute.
A Devin Lee free kick from 35 yards out to the back post was headed by a teammate but deflected by a Mililani defender over the crossbar. The ensuing corner kick by Keane Palmer from the right flag went over the goal and out of bounds just seconds before the final whistle.
All three of the Raiders' shots on goal came before halftime. Nonetheless, Iolani coach Chris Lee was proud of his team's effort after it went to extra time in both a quarterfinal win over Kealakehe Thursday and Friday's semifinal win over Baldwin.
"After two overtime games, I thought that they put forth the energy to put Mililani under pressure. I felt like we were creating some chances and putting them under pressure in the first half and obviously Mililani is a great team and the reason why they're so great is their depth and they just kind of squeeze you and squeeze you and squeeze you until something like that happens," Lee said. "You know, it was just one play that happened in the game and in these tight games, that's all it takes."
Mililani tallied all four of its shot on goals after halftime.
Maddox Flanders made three saves in goal for the Trojans, who turned in their 14th shut out of the year.
"All glory to our defense. If they weren't there then we wouldn't have won and it was really good for him," said Ishizaka, a junior forward.
Mililani surrendered only one goal in three state tournament games. It beat Kekaulike, 2-1, and shut out Punahou, 2-0, en route to the title game. Along with Tilton, fellow center-back Parker Patterson and outside-back Mau Uiagalelei were selected to the all-tournament team, as well as Ishizaka.
"The old adage is you win games with offense and you win championships with defense. Well, that's what we did tonight," McGehee said.
Brayden Obrero recorded three saves for Iolani, which was seeking its 11th state title.
The Raiders finished the year with a record of 11-1-2.
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