Kalaheo has a long and rich soccer history.
The titles these days, however, are a lot fewer and farther between. The Mustangs cashed in on the OIA Division II boys championship with a 3-1 victory over Waialua on Saturday night at Kaiser Stadium for their first crown since 2013.
Maybe the school is about to become serious contenders at the league and state D-II level every year. A year ago, the Mustangs made it to states but lost to eventual D-II champion and top-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii 6-1 in the first round.
Back in the day, Kalaheo was a regular at the top of the podium. The Mustangs own five OIA D-I titles — from 1984,’86, ’94, ’96 and ’98 — to go along with two state D-I championships in 1984 and ’93.
“We set out at the beginning of the season to compete with all teams, whether they’re D-I or D_II,” Mustangs coach John Nakagawa said. “We’re absolutely looking forward to states and have been preparing for that. It’s another level. We’re cherishing the opportunity to get there and test ourselves. Our philosophy is to play at the highest level and compete.”
Nakagawa’s squad has had success against D-I teams, winning all games against others in the upper level except for losses of 5-0 to Kalani and 2-1 to Kaiser, which both advanced to the OIA semifinals.
Saturday’s victory was wind-aided. The 20-mph wind, however, nearly took it all away. The Mustangs pounded away without scoring until midway through the second half.
Waialua (4-8) grabbed a 1-0 first-half lead with the wind at its back.
Led by midfielder Haden Brown after the break, Kalaheo (10-2) got the equalizer, and then the go-ahead tally followed by some insurance.
Brown’s corner kick was knocked in by a leaping Kai Takahashi for a 1-1 tie. Jack Lemonds followed with the game-winner on a cross from Brown. And then Brown’s cross set up Jaden Amasiu‘s goal for the 3-1 final count.
“He has very good crosses from the outside,” Nakagawa said about Brown. “He’s a crafty player.
“Credit to Waialua,” the coach continued. “They were really good and played a wonderful and challenging game.”
Brown sees this championship as the first building block toward a run at the D-II state title.
“It’s been a while since Kalaheo has won (a title),” he said. “We’ll have to go into states with the same mentality. We’re there to win. We’ll give it our all.”
The Bulldogs, who got an immense effort from their defenders and goalkeeper Likeke Lacar as well as a goal from Ezra Sheridan, will also be going to the state D-II tournament.
“I think we’ll be ready,” Waialua coach John Rosa said. “We got this far. We’ll see what happens.”