This story first appeared at www.hawaiitribune-herald.com
By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Honokaa had hope at halftime, but it didn’t last long.
Mid-Pacific’s boys soccer team was as tough as advertised, ending the Dragons’ run in the championship match of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament at Oahu’s Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex.
“The boys played with a lot of heart,” coach Maurice Miranda said after a 2-0 defeat Saturday night. “They just got beat by a better team.”
Miranda said the Dragons (11-4-3) allowed what he considered a bad goal in the 25th minute to the Owls’ Tyler Allen, but he liked where his team stood at the half.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the first half and how we moved the ball,” he said. “I was thinking we were in this thing.”
But all that changed less than three minutes into the second half as freshman Payton Boyd beat three defenders to increase the lead to 2-0.
“That’s a tough mountain to climb,” Miranda said.
In the semifinals, Boyd also tormented Hawaii Prep, netting a goal early in the second half of Mid-Pacific’s 1-0 victory. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion Owls (7-4-4) became the first three-time winner in the seven-year history of the Division II tournament, winning their first title since 2010.
Honokaa, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation’s third-place team, was denied its third state title. The Dragons were playing in their fourth final in the past five seasons after missing out on states altogether last season.
“This team refocused and the seniors led the way,” Miranda said. “We weren’t the most talented team, but we worked hard.”
Honokaa worked the ball diagonally to try and beat Mid-Pacific’s high defensive line, and the strategy paid dividends at times as the Dragons were able to get behind the Owls.
In one such instance, Preston Branco got through on a breakaway but shot wide. On an ensuing free kick, there was a scrum deep in Mid-Pacific’s end, but the ball went wide again.
“That was the story,” Miranda said.
Branco and teammates Tony Connors and Aukanai Kapu were named to the all-tournament team.
Hawaii Prep 2, Christian Liberty 1: In a rematch of the BIIF championship game, freshman Braden Kojima scored with less than two minutes remaining as Ka Makani (12-3-1) again eked out a one-goal win against the Canefire to take third in Division II tournament.
Nakaiya Kerr scored the equalizer in the 56th minute for the Canefire (12-6), who were trying to finish third at states for the second time in three seasons.
Kharim Barthson found the back of the net for HPA in the first half, and he, Kerr and Christian Liberty’s Louis Moylan were each named to the all-tournament team.
Mililani 4, Hilo 0: The Trojans got goals from four different players to win the Division I seventh-place game.
The Vikings, the BIIF runner-up, finished their season 11-6-1.