Sunday | December 10, 2017
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BIIF soccer: Dragons look to breathe fire again in revamped D-II race

Honokaa freshman Nahlyd Anderson makes Maurice Miranda wonder.

Miranda coached Anderson’s father in high school and in AYSO play, and while there is something to be said for longevity, this is hardly the first time his career will have spanned generations.

“I’ve always said the kids I’ve coached, when their kids got to high school, I should be out of here,” Miranda said Sunday at the Hilo Bay Classic. “But that doesn’t happen.”

Here’s what happens: Miranda goes to his full-time job, he goes to the mainland for national AYSO meetings – he’s on the board, but that’s a volunteer gig – and he always finds time to leads a proud Dragons boys program. And trust him, it’s not for the pay.

Something must be bringing him back?

“I keep saying I should step out, but my juices keep flowing,” he said. “The thing about this team is that they are an enthusiastic bunch, they go pretty hard.

“They are not the most technically skilled bunch, and that’s what we are trying to work on. It takes time. It takes years to have that great touch. We have to make out on our athleticism.”

Honokaa’s girls program does have new leadership. Onipa’a Coelho – who, of course, played for Miranda – takes over for Gerald Shiraki.

The boys team, led by a familiar face, will try to rebound from a rare rebuilding season that saw the Dragons, with just one senior, go 1-11-2 and miss the HHSSA Division II tournament for just the second time since its inception in 2008.

That one-win campaign came while the Dragons, to Miranda’s dismay, took their lumps in the regular season competing in the BIIF’s rugged Red division, but this season Honokaa drops down to the middle-tiered White division along with Kamehameha, Makua Lani and Keaau. White teams plays each of the other 11 BIIF teams once.

Waiakea moved up to compete with fellow Red teams Hawaii Prep, Kealakehe and Hilo. The blue consists of Konawaena, Kohala, Ka’u and Pahoa.

“I wish that would have been reversed,” Miranda said of wanting to play in the Red this season, “but I’m excited. I think we’ll be a lot more competitive.”

The backbone of the team will be its four seniors (Isaac Aguilar, Levi Higa, Micah Miranda and Maikai Kunishige) as well as an up-and-coming sophomore class.

From what Maurice Miranda saw during Sunday’s preseason action, the Dragons lost to Kauai 3-1 and beat Kealakehe’s junior varsity 4-0, Higa, Micah Miranda and Daneau Domingo will form a strong nucleus inside, while Aguilar can rotate between first-string goalkeeper and helping out in the field, a dual role he played last season. Kunishige is the backup keeper and will also see time in the field.

During his coaching career, Miranda has had his share of seasoned players who have risen through the AYSO ranks and made an impact with the Dragons. He build back-to-back HHSAA tournament championship squads in 2011 and 2012 on the concept of AYSO development.

Juniors Kamuela Boneza and Oshen Nobriga aren’t those type of players, but they are starting to find their way since picking up the game as freshmen.

“They had never played the game before, but now they are anchoring our defense,” Miranda said. “They are really coming along.”

Sophomore Aceson Domingo might be the team’s most improved player, sophomore Yo Bostwick could play forward or midfield and Miranda said sophomore Kelson Pedro “is (4-foot, 2 inches) but he plays likes he’s 6-2.”

The Division II landscape is markedly different this season now that two-time state champion Hawaii Prep has moved up to Division I, so Miranda sees Kamehameha as the team to beat.

For Thanksgiving, the Dragons will get their fill of Division I competition. Honokaa faces two Oahu powers in preseason action Friday, first Mililani and then Kapolei in the afternoon in Waimea at the 46th annual Ka Makani Classic, which runs through Sunday.

Miranda liked what he saw in the loss to Kauai, which a day earlier played HPA to a draw.

“We can can hang with some of those guys,” he said. “In the first half we really dragged, but in the second half we talked about putting the ball back on the ground and gaining possession, and we did a better job of possessing and creating chances.”

Possession is a concept Miranda has been talking about for, well, generations now.

 

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