Pre-game: Honokaa/MPI, boys soccer

By Paul Honda

OK, to be accurate, there are no “games” in soccer. They are matches.

As Honokaa and Mid-Pac square off for the Division II boys soccer state title (see OC 16 live), it’s interesting that the Dragons have a chance — long shot as they may be since Mid-Pac is the only team to beat Punahou this season (so far) — to surface as the first boys soccer state champ from the Big Island.

Why is that worth mentioning? Well, for decades, it’s been Hawaii Prep that usually contended for power in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation. HPA and neighborhood rival Honokaa have battled on the gridiron with classic games as a result. But soccer? Not so much, at least until Maurice Miranda’s program rose to prominence the last several years.

“We’re young. Our core is our sophomores,” Miranda said after his team ousted defending state champion Kapaa yesterday. “Keone Lindsey, Jeremy Yagong and Sage (Johnson) are our (key) seniors.”

Yagong, a speedy midfielder, is son of longtime Big Island councilman Dominic Yagong, who I remember well from my years working for the West Hawaii Today. Dominic showed up for home football games and did the PA job with great enthusiasm and accuracy. Since there isn’t a real press box at Honokaa, Dominic would roam the sideline up and down, with a sportwriter next to him. Spotting for each other was always fun, especially on those rainy, gusty, muddy nights when viewing uniform numbers was nearly impossible.

The Dragons know they are on the cusp of something special, win or lose tonight. Many of the players have played under Miranda since they were 8, 9 years old, he said. They travel in the off-season for tournaments. Isolation doesn’t stop them from progressing.

Miranda’s son, Marc, was a longtime coach at Mid-Pac. Marc because UH-Hilo’s coach this season, but the elder Miranda expects to see a similar system employed by the Owls.

“They’ll try to possess it and use the width of the field,” he said. “You’ll see similar styles.”

Johnson, a standout quarterback on the football field, gives Honokaa a bigger, faster player.

“My three goals this year were to win BIIF football, BIIF soccer and state soccer,” he said. So far we have three of ’em. This is for the Big Island.”


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