People in the stands at the Castle High field Thursday night saw Mililani’s Marc Matas score with a header on Jarad Choquette’s corner kick for a 1-0 win over Kalaheo in the OIA boys soccer semifinals.
What the spectators may not have seen is the jockeying for position that went on seconds before the goal.
Mililani had been pounding away all night with shot after shot on Kalaheo’s defense and goalkeeper Jack Bell, but couldn’t put it in. For two 40-minute halves and most of two 10-minute overtime periods, the Trojans were denied.
As a matter of fact, one spectator walking down the stadium stairs after the game said, “He must have had about 20 saves.”
Sounds about right. Or more. No official stats were readily available, and it doesn’t really matter. It was a lot.
OK, so here is Bell, who is also the quarterback of the football team, setting up near the center of his goal, pretty much on the goal line, ready to defend the upcoming corner kick.
And then there was Matas, the place-kicker on Mililani’s state championship football team, also awaiting Choquette’s kick. But he didn’t just stand five yards away from the goal line. He stood less than a foot away from it, dead center of the two posts.
Bell moved over and stood his ground right behind Matas. A Kalaheo defender saw that neither was going to budge, so he slipped in between the two with his hands out wide so the officials would know he was not using them to push away Matas.
Then all of a sudden the corner kick came and Matas moved a few steps out, put his head under the perfectly placed ball and redirected it high into the net.
“I try to confuse them so maybe they’ll bump into each other, and just try to be an irritant,” Matas said about the approach he uses sometimes on corner kicks, including this one that turned into the winning goal in the 99th minute and a little more than a minute remaining before it would move on to penalty kicks. “I saw that it was a great ball by Jarad and I tried my best to get my head on it. It felt great. I redirected it in and I’m so happy.”
Sometimes it pays to be irritating.
“Kalaheo was very resilient,” Trojans coach Steve McGehee said. “In the second half, we started to get more direct with our attack and it was fruitful. We got good looks, but just couldn’t put it in.”
Until Matas’ header.
The Trojans (11-1) play Kalani for the OIA title Saturday at Castle at 6:30 p.m.
Kalaheo (8-2-2) meets Kapolei in the third-place match at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Kailua High.