By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
KEAAU — Kamehameha’s Koa Thompson doesn’t like to make excuses, but if the senior ever appears winded on the soccer field, he has a good one. Thompson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 9, but he has fought through it.
Coach Mario Patino had no explanation Tuesday for the Warriors’ team effort in the first half, which Patino called “flat” and “disorganized.”
But what a difference a half can make. Lethargy was suddenly transformed to energy, and the Warriors got goals from four different players, including one from Thompson, shutting out Makua Lani 4-0 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation boys playoffs at Paiea Stadium.
Junior Ric Moke-Rabang tallied a goal and an assist for the Warriors (7-2-5), who are unbeaten in their last six games.
Kamehameha has two chances to secure its first berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament since 2009, starting with a BIIF semifinal match at 3 p.m. Thursday at top-seeded Christian Liberty (10-3). The Warriors’ last defeat came Jan. 7, 3-1 at the Canefire’s field.
“We’ll have to take our second-half effort into the first half of the game,” Patino said.
Kamehameha — which was perhaps rusty after having not played since it beat Makua Lani 2-0 on Jan. 25 — might also want to bring the efficiency it showed on set pieces. It scored on two corner kicks and a direct kick during a dominant 40 minutes of soccer against the Lions (5-7-2).
“We’ve been working on those during the second half of the season,” said Patino, who is in his first season back with the Warriors. He previously coached at Kamehameha when it made its last state appearance. “We made some adjustments and started to possess the ball better.”
On one corner kick, senior Colton Hill broke a scoreless tie in the 51st minute after sophomore Liam Kenoi sent a nice ball to the middle of the field, the first of four goals for the Warriors during an 18-minute span.
Unable to finish on its chances early in the match, Kamehameha started to string together more passes. Perhaps the best came off the foot of junior Dominik Pajimola in the form of a cross to Thompson, who ripped in a shot from about 15 yards out in the 56th minute.
Thompson said the most difficult thing about his disease is he has to religiously monitor his blood-sugar levels. He’s in his fourth year on the soccer team and has played tennis the past three seasons.
“It’s hard,” he said. “If my blood-sugar gets too high, I can get fatigued and it affects my mood.
“But I don’t want to be treated any differently than anybody else.”
Moke-Rabang took a corner kick midway the half that senior Phil Aganus redirected into the net, and Moke-Rabang hammered in a direct kick from 21 yards out to cap the scoring.
Junior Sean Miday made four saves in the shutout.
“We started to figure out what we had to do,” Thompson said.
Kamehameha also owned a severe height advantage at many spots on the field against the freshmen-laden Lions (5-7-2).
“Size was an issue,” first-year coach Alex Dong said. “They won all the 50-50 balls. They earned it.”
Dong, a 2009 Makua Lani graduate, said it was fair to call 2014 a rebuilding year for a boys program known for its penchant to overachieve.
Exactly half of the 44 boys in grades 9-12 at Makua Lani are on the soccer team, but 12 players are in their freshman season, including fleet-footed striker Kolby Martin. Martin made a few good surges Tuesday, but the Warriors bottled up the Lions for the most part.
“I want to take them through their four years and build the program,” Dong said.