McKinley’s stunning comeback and Kalani’s golden moment defined a thrilling championship night to cap the OIA boys soccer playoffs on Saturday at Kapolei.
McKinley trailed Kalaheo 2-0 at halftime of Saturday’s OIA Division II final, but rallied behind the mastery of senior Kotaro Minawa to force overtime. The Tigers and Mustangs went to penalty kicks and Cristian Orlando Guzman Diaz’s save on Kalaheo’s eighth shooter followed by Brian Anderson’s goal gave McKinley a 6-5 win in the shootout and a 3-2 victory and its first OIA title since 1977.
Kalani and Kaiser followed with even more drama. The East Oahu rivals, who had given up one goal each this season, played 90 scoreless minutes before Kai Sigler‘s run down the right side and cross set up Rei Naiki’s game-winner in the Falcons’ 1-0 win in double overtime.
“I’m so happy for these boys,” Kalani coach Mike Ching said after the Falcons’ third 1-0 win of the week and second OIA D-I title in the last three years. “You do it for the kids and they get to celebrate so I’m so happy.”
The top two seeds from the OIA East advanced to the D-I and D-II finals with the No. 2 seed winning both.
It appeared McKinley’s wait for a title would stretch another year after Kalaheo dominated the first half to take a 2-0 lead. But Minawa’s brilliant run down the left side to set up a score in the 55th minute and his header off a corner kick from Nghia Nguyen with six minutes left in regulation gave the Tigers’ new life.
Minawa moved to Hawaii from Japan last May and needed translation by teammate Frank Aizawa in postgame interviews. But his play largely speaks for itself.
“He may not speak English, but I understand everything he’s saying because he’s very animated. He’s just an amazing person,” Anderson said.
“He put me in check when I was getting upset. He kept saying, ‘energy.’”
Kalani and Kaiser exerted all they could in the night’s second match, although neither could puncture their defenses through 80 minutes of regulation and the first 10-minute overtime.
Sigler was part of the Kalani line that managed to fend off the Cougar attacks along with Noah Camacho, Keoni Ichiyama and Jonathan Casey. Goalkeeper Sena Morimoto made six saves behind them, including punching out a dangerous free kick in the first overtime.
“He has put the work in and you could definitely tell,” Ching said. “The punch at the end off the free kick was off-the-charts good. He probably saved us. If doesn’t punch it there they might get a head on it and score.
“It’s always nice to see hard work pay off for the boys so they can enjoy it.”
Going into the second overtime, Sigler, who was a Saint Louis freshman when Kalani won the 2016 OIA title, asked for permission to push forward to try to punch in a game-winner. The coaches wanted him to stay back to defend, but when the opportunity arose, Sigler hit a seam between two Kaiser defenders and crossed a pass to Naiki — playing with a cast on his broken wrist — for the point-blank golden goal to end the night’s drama.
“We tied Kaiser 1-1 (in the regular season) and that was a heartbreaker,” Sigler said. “At the end I was about to tear up and cry because I was overwhelmed with joy. … We did it as a team and I’m proud of our team.”