Waiakea chipped away at years of playoff misery at the hands of Hilo for 70-odd minutes, but the climactic snapshot – the moment the wall finally began to fall – included the flick of Gabriel Frazier-Jenkins’ foot, the roar of the crowd and the play call “tower.”
In Warriors’ parlance, tower essentially means: we have a lead, let’s protect it. It was a sweet word not heard around this boys soccer program in some time.
Frazier-Jenkins, a senior at risk of playing his final game on a team ripe with talented underclassmen just getting started, put home the go-ahead goal Tuesday as the Warriors edged the Vikings 3-2 at Ken Yamase Stadium to advance to the BIIF Division I championship match for the first time since 2012.
“This feels great,” Frazier-Jenkins said. “Everything I’ve worked for the past three years finally came down to this.”
The Warriors (6-3-2) were eliminated by Hilo (4-4-2) in each of the past four BIIF semifinals, and Frazier-Jenkins was on hand to see three of them: a golden goal defeat in 2015, a blowout loss two years ago and a 3-1 setback in 2017.
“It’s always been a rivalry, and no matter how either of us do during the regular season, it always come down to the semifinal at the the end of the season,” said Frazier-Jenkins, who also garnered an assist on freshman Riley Tamanaha’s tying goal earlier in the second half. “This is amazing.”
Searching for their first title since 2006 and with a HHSAA tournament berth secure, Waiakea heads to Waimea on Saturday afternoon to take on undefeated Hawaii Prep, which blasted Kealakehe 10-1 at home in the other semifinal. This will the first time since 2007, when Makua Lani beat Kamehameha for the title, that the Vikings and Waveriders will both miss out on the final.
Hilo twice held the lead. Logan Mizuba opened the scoring on a penalty kick and Riley Patterson’s wonder – a one-touch, one-blast rocket for a 2-1 lead with just one second remaining in the first half – seemingly sent the Vikings to the break with all the momentum.
“Riley Patterson is amazing,” Waiakea coach David Urakami said.
Patterson also headed a ball just wide with the match tied 2-2, and on the ensuing sequence senior Kolton Xie sent a throughball that Frazier-Jenkins corralled, drew the goalkeeper to his left, then buried a shot to the right.
“That’s the game of soccer,” Hilo coach George Ichimaru said. “You attack and create good opportunities, and they turn around and go right back.”
For Waiakea, the semifinal played out much the way the regular season did. The Warriors underwent a revival because of their underclassmen, but they couln’t have gone far without their seniors, namely Frazier-Jenkins, Xie and Craig Okahara-Olsen.
“All year we’ve been saying we have this bumper crop of freshmen, but the coaches have always been preaching that we’re not going to win a championship with freshmen,” Urakami said, “so we’re relying on our seniors to lead us through and really show them what to expect and the tradition of being at Waiakea.”
Sophomore John Grover created Waiakea’s first goal, turning quickly on a ball to lead the rush on a counter attack. A foul gave Waiakea a penalty kick, which Grover converted.
Grover, a co-captain, Tamanaha, sophomore Kai Biegler and freshmen Colby Kerr and Ethan Okahara-Olsen have been among Waiakea’s steadiest performers all season.
“The freshmen have put up utter quality this whole season,” Frazier-Jenkins said. “They are going places.
“All of them are better than I was as a freshman, so to know that Waiakea is building and have people that I know I can trust is great.”
With Hilo protecting a 2-1 lead, Patterson had a golden chance at an insurance goal after a Waiakea misplay deep in its own zone, but the junior sailed a shot over the crossbar from point-blank range.
“That was a mistake where we usually punish Waiakea,” Ichimaru said, “but this year they punished us with their opportunity.”
After Hilo missed its first BIIF final and first HHSAA tournament berth since 2012 – the Vikings’ title drought extends to 2011 – Ichimaru said he hoped the setback would strengthen his players’ resolve in the offseason.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “The competition is getting stronger and the challenge is bigger. We’ll see how much the players are committed.”
Waiakea’s coaches expressed disappointment that Saturday’s finals were moved to Hawaii Prep – the BIIF made the announcement Monday. Konawaena was supposed to host but Julian Yates Field in Kealakekua was left in tatters after last Saturday’s girls championship matches. The last time HPA hosted the finals was 2011. Kamehameha and Kealakehe have been recent sites of the title matches.
Beyond not wanting to play Ka Makani on their home field, Urakami said his team was looking forward to playing under the lights.
“Give the boys something to remember,” he said.
The D-I final is scheduled to kick off at 3 p.m. as Waiakea tries to solve an HPA team it lost to twice in the regular season (6-3 at Waiakea, 4-0 at HPA).
“I feel like our organization definitely needs to improve if we want the chance to beat them,” Frazier-Jenkins said.