By J.R. De GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
WAIMEA — Led by a pair of goals from sophomore forward Zen Simone and tallies from six other scorers, Hawaii Preparatory Academy trampled Ka‘u 8-0 on its way to a Big Island Interscholastic Federation soccer quarterfinal win at home Tuesday.
The victory sets up a highly anticipated rivalry rematch with Honokaa in the BIIF Division II semifinals Thursday.
“The boys looked good and nobody got hurt,” HPA head coach Richard Braithwaite said. “Early in the game, with our starting crew in, we were doing all the things we’ve worked on in practice — we played the ball out wide, played the ball to feet. Now we will get one really good final practice in before facing Honokaa. ”
With multiple starters nursing injuries, and many of the suited up starters taking a spot on the bench early, the substitute players got a chance to shine on a playoff stage.
Of the seven goal scorers for HPA, five were underclassmen, including frosh Leopold Von Wackerbarth, Brandon Melton, and Kama Kahoe-Morrison.
“What was really nice about this win was even when our starting 11 were on the bench, we still looked really good out there,” Braithwaite said. “A couple guys are still nursing some injuries, but they will hopefully be up to full-speed come Thursday.”
Ka‘u battled until the final buzzer, but did not have the depth to keep up with HPA. The Trojans were content from the get-go to fall into a defensive shell and boot the ball out of bounds, or to the other end of the field to relieve pressure.
Ka‘u was also plagued by injuries. Three players limped or were carted off to the sideline, nearly depleting the short, four-man bench of the Trojans.
Among the HPA starters who saw extra work against Ka‘u was senior sweeper Blake Hooser. From his defensive position, Hooser often intercepted balls and made it nearly impossible for the Trojans to get anything rolling offensively. It was no coincidence that in the 60th minute, just seconds after Hooser took his first break of the game, the Trojans recorded their best opportunity after a handball call in the box. However, the resulting penalty kick went over the net.
“Blake is the key to our defensive organization. He’s a senior captain and does everything we ask of him,” Braithwaite said. “Even when we have to push numbers forward, he holds it down back there. I think he is one of the strongest, physically dominating players on the island and uses his body very well.”
Sophomores Trent Wise and Dyllon Ching split the shutout in net.
Honokaa beat HPA at home 2-0 in the final game of the regular season. The Dragons struck first and forced Ka Makani to chase from behind. But in the playoffs anything can happen, and when you add a rivalry into the mix, you can throw out regular season records and results.
“If you look at our scores against the better teams on the island, our struggle has been finishing. The games we won have been 1-0, or maybe 2-1,” Braithwaite said. “The key for us will be getting the first goal. Once we get down we have to push numbers and chase offense, it opens the door for a second goal — like what happened against Honokaa last time we played.”
After having some time to reflect and learn from the regular season loss, Braithwaite is confident his young squad can deliver when they visit the Dragons’ den Thursday.
“Honokaa is in the same boat as us,” the HPA coach said. “They do not have a dominant attack but are very organized in the back and have great midfield play. It will be a scrap for who gets that first goal, and the team who gets it will have a very big edge.”