It is fitting and a shame at the same time.
Baldwin and Hawaii Prep tried so desperately to become the first team from the Neighbor Islands to win a Division I state soccer championship.
Instead, both of them get that title. That’s where the “fitting” part comes in. They both deserve it and they are both co-champs — the Bears from Maui and Ka Makani from the Big Island. It’s a shame that they didn’t get to finish what they started. Lightning was the reason, and we’re not talking about the lightning skills and abilities of Baldwin’s Angelo Deloso-Flocco or Hawaii Prep’s Jake Schneider.
This was real lightning and a real threat, and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association made the correct call in calling off the match at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium with the score knotted 0-0 with 2:21 showing on the clock in the first overtime.
At first, at about 9:25 p.m., it was announced that there would be a 30-minute wait. Twenty minutes later, there was an announcement that it would be postponed until further notice.
Officials from both schools and the HHSAA met near the comfort station to talk about options. Apparently, there were lightning strikes in the area, but not visible to the players or fans, and by National Federation of High School Association rules, there needed to be a delay.
With no change in the weather expected, it was first proposed to move the game to Sunday at 7 a.m. at the Waipahu High School field. And then, a few minutes later, it was decided that both schools would be co-champions.
“We were thinking about playing the game tomorrow at 7 in the morning, but because of the lightning strike (in the area) we had to postpone tonight,” HHSAA executive director Chris Chun said. “The teams were taking into consideration their flight plans, but Baldwin has to sleep in a high school gym tonight, so I don’t know if that was in their consideration, but I think it should have been. They wanted to be at their best. Baldwin really wanted to play in the end. I think it would have been a travesty for them to play at 7 a.m. after being in a high school gym with five hours of sleep.
“We left it up to both teams and they agreed on co-champs.”
At about 10:15 p.m., well after the final decision was made, lightning was visible in the sky and there were some serious jolts in the area at about 10:40 p.m.
Coaches and players from both teams shared what was on their minds after what was an immense tactical and mostly defensive and ball-control oriented — and ultimately shortened — match.
And here are some of the snippets of comments from Richard Braithwaite, the coach of Hawaii Prep (14-0-1); Kane Palazzotto, the coach of Baldwin (10-1-2); Deloso-Flocco; and Schneider.
>> Braithwaite: “Bittersweet. It’s sitting a little rough. Obviously, I would like it if there was any possible way to get this done right now. So our job is to make sure the boys take it the right way and feel good about it. We had a great game, these guys (Baldwin) had a great game and now all we can do is feel good about the ending.
“I was honestly happy with the way both teams played today, I felt good about the tempo of the game. Both teams were able to play out of the back, play the ball to feet, play off the middies. It was a beautiful game. Not a whole lot of chances, but so much better than our semi (a 3-2 win over King Kekaulike) for sure.
“We feel like champions and I hope these guys (the Bears) feel like champions. Hopefully, the boys can feel good about what they accomplished. We’re Division I champs. Undefeated. So I feel really good about our first year in D-I.”
>> Palazzotto: “It’s bittersweet in a way. As competitors, you want to have a true way of finishing the game. But unfortunately, the circumstances of both teams being from the outer islands and the cost that is involved in us traveling (is a problem), which is why we should have state tournaments on our islands sometimes.
“The Big Island is legit. We should think about that (having tourneys on the Neighbor Islands). We always have to travel, so we always have to think about that.
“Part of me feels that with that decision, I let my boys down. They look really disappointed. The big shame is you don’t get to see how that great game would have ended.”
>> Schneider: “For me personally, I don’t know where I’m at. It’s truly one of the most amazing, weirdest things that’s ever happened in my soccer career. To be honest, I think we’re emotionless because it really hasn’t settled in. It’s just a weird conclusion to this whole season. We put in a lot of work and a lot of training and it comes to co-champions. You’re neither happy nor sad.
“I definitely gotta look at it with the glass half full. We are still undefeated, which is a very positive thing, especially coming out with a chip on our shoulder, moving up from D-II to D-I. I think we proved Big Island soccer. And Maui soccer has improved.”
>> Deloso-Flocco: “We’re not getting the result we wanted, but it’s still a pretty good accomplishment. Both outer-island teams make it to the state final. The first co-championship. It’s definitely not what we wanted, but it was a good game, I guess, overall.
“I’ll take co-champs over a loss. We wanted the win. We wanted to be the first outer-island team to take it, but co-champs is what we got.”