By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
The torch has been passed from Don Memmer to Buddy Betts, and Betts plans for his Hilo High boys soccer team to hit the ground running.
“It’s going to fun, and high-paced and hopefully we score a lot of goals,” he said.
Betts hasn’t followed a lot of high soccer recently, but he breaks the game down to the basics: move ball, score ball.
The devil, as always, is in the details
“We’re just trying to figure out the easiest way to get things from there to there,” Betts said. “With a lot movement, though. It’s a simple game, but everybody’s got to be thinking as one. It’s hard to get (10) guys moving as one.”
Senior playmaking center midfielder Justin Shiigi should prove to be a reliable facilitator.
When Big Island Interscholastic Federation fans last saw Shiigi, he was streaking down the flanks last season to set up scoring chances on a gusty day at Hilo Bayfront against Waiakea in the BIIF semifinals. The Vikings missed on many of those opportunities, however, falling in a shootout as their hopes of a Division I repeat and fourth consecutive trip to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament slipped away.
“We thought we had that one, we really did,” Shiigi said. “It shows you what your mindset has to be. You always have to want it.
“It’s never your right. It’s whoever works the hardest, and we just got outworked last year.”
That loss also brought an end to Memmer’s long tenure. Enter Betts, who played for Memmer before graduating from Hilo in 1996 and also is a former assistant for the Vikings.
Betts wants the Vikings to play less direct than before, favoring a possession style where bunching together touches is emphasized.
“Little bit more passing, and trying to be a little bit more creative off the ball,” Shiigi said. “I like that.”
Jonathan Perez’s team-leading 18 goals need to be replaced, and Betts wants everyone to contribute to fill the void.
“We’re trying to attack from the back,” Betts said. “We’ll be bringing guys from all over and scoring goals. It should be exciting for everybody.”
And it’s an easy philosophy for players to bye into.
“Everybody wants to score goals,” Shiigi said. “Shoot, our goalkeeper would want to score. Everybody’s always working for it.”
While the backline will be looked to for offensive support, it will also have to help Hilo break in a new goalkeeper.
Senior Adryan Vidad anchors a revamped defense along with fellow center fullback Aidan Nakamura, a senior.
Betts expects a big year from Casey Nakatsu at outside fullback, a junior who’s known as the “Ninja” because he’s left-footed and quick. Sophomore Rayce Takayesu suffered a collarbone injury in the preseason, but he’s ticketed to be the other outside back when he returns to the lineup.
At keeper, Katon Pestano is a senior, but he doesn’t have much match experience. Senior Chris Torrison is also competing for the spot.
Senior Dane Miyata (nine goals last season) will be the focal point up top, and he’ll be paired with freshman Arris Aynessazian.
Juniors Andrew Dawrs and Dylan Silva will join Shiigi in the midfield, and freshman Nick Carter may start there as well.
Shiigi, who scored seven goals last season, was nursing an injury during the preseason, but he was expected to be cleared to return in time for Hilo’s opener Dec. 6 at home against Kamehameha.
Also on Betts’ agenda is getting more of his players on to club teams so that Vikings can compete better with Oahu schools at the state tournament.
With Waiakea going through a youth movement, the Vikings and defending champion Kealakehe are heavily favored to grab the two state berths in Division I.
That’s certainly Shiigi’s goal.
“I’m not necessarily concerned about (scoring), I just like winning,” he said. “It means a lot to us, especially the seniors. We have to make our senior year special.”
Editor’s note: This is the continuation in a series of BIIF soccer previews.