KEAAU – Christmas came early for Kamehameha, Honokaa boys soccer coach Maurice Miranda said.
The Dragons were dressed in white on the road, but Miranda joked, “I should have dressed them up in red suits and beards.”
“We gave them a lot of gifts today,” he said.
Buddy Betts scored four goals, two off assists from Elijah Dinkel, who added a goal, and the Warriors cruised to a 7-1 victory in a matchup at Paiea Stadium that featured BIIF Division II teams at different stages of development.
“They are a very good team,” Miranda said of two-time defending champion Kamehameha (2-1).
The veteran coach puts Honokaa (1-1) on a tier along with Konawaena and Kohala, a notch below the true contenders: Kamehameha, Hawaii Prep and Makua Lani.
“We’ve got a few things to clean up,” Miranda said. “Our defense, we just got turned around and let things go. The one-on-ones, we didn’t do well in the back. We need to be more disciplined.”
Most of all, he said, “We’re looking for field leadership.”
Senior Koa Miche, he said, put his best foot forward Tuesday in that regard, bringing the energy and intensity needed to compete against the BIIF elite.
“It’s all these little things that we can fix,” Miranda said. “That’s the good news.”
The bad news: Is there enough time to fix it?
Miranda – who led Honokaa to consecutive D-II state titles in 2011-12 – is one of the most respected coaches in the league by his peers. He’s one some other coaches point to as always having a trick up his sleeve.
Miranda chuckled at the thought.
“I don’t have smoke and mirrors,” he said, “but I do enjoy working with the younger guys.”
The Dragons scored when freshman Micah Pesta took the ball down the right side and sent it to senior Kelson Pedro, who, with his back to the goal, set up senior Elijah Aguiar for his first goal of the season.
Aguiar played goalkeeper in Honokaa’s season-opening win against Konawaena, but in the best-case scenario, he’ll play in the field and help produce scoring chances along with Pedro and junior Malachi Pesta.
“Malachi is trying to step up,” Miranda said. “He’s probably the most skilled on the team, he and Kelson. Kelson has a nose for the goal, and we’ve been playing those two at forward. We’re hoping they can create magic, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Two other key Honokaa seniors are Waimea Case and Yo Bostwick, one of a handful of club players for Honokaa.
Ethan Shimabukuro added a goal and an assist for the Warriors, and Kana’i Eckart also scored.
The Dragons’ last BIIF title came in 2012, but they’ve been a consistent qualifier at the HHSAA tournament, though they missed on a berth last season.
The road to the state tourney is tougher this season now that HPA is back in D-II after winning consecutive BIIF championships in D-I.
Of Ka Makani’s move down, Miranda asked, “Why?”
“It should be at least a two-to-three year moratorium if you win a championship,” he said. “I don’t get that. If you can recruit you should go D-I. I’ve got 18 kids and I don’t make cuts. If I had a deep pool to draw from, I’d go D-I. I wouldn’t hesitate.”
As it is, he’s hoping Honokaa won’t be in such a giving mood the next time it takes the pitch.
“We’re fighting for our (playoff) lives,” Miranda said.
Hilo 11, Ka’u 0: Leha Harman and Keanu Keolanui each recorded hat tricks at Hilo Bayfront and Owen Fragas Van and Kyler Rivera each scored twice.
Kainalu Lewis tacked on a goal for Hilo (1-1), and Jyson Breitbarth and Tyson Kaniaupio shared in the shutout of the Trojans (0-3).
Kamehameha 5, Honokaa 0: Sophia Wilson netted three goals as the host Warriors (2-0-1) poured it on by scoring four times in the second half.
Chenoa Frederick added her seventh goal and Raeshalyn Respicio also scored.
Kaylia Galindo was credited with the shutout of the Dragons (0-2).
Hilo 10, Ka’u 0: Nanea Moke-Rabang put home four goals with an assist and Briana-Jean Tanaka score twice for the Vikings (1-1) at Hilo Bayfront.
Kiley Kalauli-Kahele produced a goal and three assists, Chloe Saplan assisted on two and scored once, Booboo Corpuz added a goal and an assist and Wai Kalauoka’ae’a-Kahele also scored.
Kali’u Boteilho and Kuuipo Kalipi shared in the shutout of the Trojans (0-3).