Kealakehe’s Joseph Choi never stopped following the ball.
Because of it, the Waveriders likely can keep trying to follow their winning formula at home.
Alex Bell scored once and helped set up Choi’s go-ahead goal in the final 10 minutes Saturday, and the Waveriders edged Waiakea 2-1 in Kailua-Kona to take a huge step toward earning home-field advantage in the BIIF boys soccer Division I semifinals.
“Alex has one thing on his mind and it’s to score goals,” Kealakehe coach Hayato Fukumitsu said. “We try to get the ball to his feet.
“Joesph, not as many people know about, but he can possess the ball.”
The Warriors’ Elijah Carigon answered Bell’s goal in the first half as the match went to halftime 1-1.
A draw wouldn’t have been a bad result for Waiakea (7-2-1 22 points), but any plans it had of one took a nosedive when Bell dribbled down the left flank and put a shot on frame. The Warriors’ goalkeeper couldn’t gain full control of the ball, and Choi was there to pounce for the eventual game-winner.
“He kept following it,” Fukumitsu said. “We told them before the game to just keep following the ball.”
Kealakehe (7-2, 21) moved within a point of first-place Waiakea and would clinch a home match in the semifinals – likely as the No. 2 seed in a rematch against the Warriors – Jan. 29 with wins in its final two regular-season matches, which are both against Division II teams. The Waveriders visit Honokaa on Tuesday and host Konawaena on Thursday. Waiakea’s last regular season match is Tuesday at home against Hawaii Prep.
Kealakehe was blessed with a favorable schedule that saw it play four of its top five opponents at home, and it’s starting to take advantage.
The Waveriders lost on its home pitch to Makua Lani and Hilo, each time by a goal, but they’ve rattled off five consecutive wins, including a victory against Hawaii Prep on Jan. 4.
“After that Hilo game, we understood what we needed to work on,” Fukumitsu said. “Everyone has been working and doing what needs to be done.”
The Vikings are tied for second with Kealakehe and are in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the playoffs since they have three matches remaining.
Kamehameha 1, Hawaii Prep 0: Logan Waltjen set up Buddy Betts for the only goal of the match in the second half in Waimea as the Warriors earned their best result of the season.
Jake Toci and Christian Hironaga shared in the shutout for Kamehameha (6-3-1, 19 points), which leapfrogged HPA and Makua Lani to take first place in D-II.
However, the Warriors only have one regular season match remaining – Saturday against Kohala – while Ka Makani (6-2) and the Lions (6-2) each have three.
Hilo 3, Kohala 0: Logan Mizuba scored twice off assists from Haku Tolentino-Perry as the Vikings won a game that was moved to Waiakea’s field turf because of the wet weather.
Mike DeCoito also scored for the Vikings (7-1-1), and Jyson Breitbarth and Tyson Kaniaupio each had a hand in the shutout of the Cowboys (3-5-1).
Honokaa 9, Ka’u 0: Elijah Aguilar and Reece Gleason each scored twice as the Dragons won at home to tie Kohala for fourth place in D-II.
Freshman Kylan Anderson, Micah Pesta and Keanakolu Case also scored, as did Kamuela-Andrade-Stout and Saja Gi Lee, while Ethan Sandoval-Seo was credited with the shutout.
Honokaa (3-4-1) holds the advantage in the race for the final playoff spot since the Dragons still have three matches remaining, one more than Kohala, but Konawaena (2-6) also is in the mix.
Hawaii Prep 4, Kamehameha 1: The beat goes on for unbeaten Ka Makani, who scored all four of their goals between the 21st and 52 minutes to win at home.
Kahala Erskine, Catie Moynahan, Bella Police and Alianna West each scored as HPA (9-0) moved two wins from an unbeaten regular season, and Jenna Perry collected two assists.
Sophia Wilson put the Warriors on the scoreboard with a goal in the 60th minute.
Honokaa 9, Ka’u 0: Dallas Branco punctuated the Dragons’ home victory with four goals, and Kailana Langan found the back of the net twice.
Kristine Domingo, Sydni Abarcar and Carolee Hanks added a goal apiece, and Langan and Kylie Aurello each played goalkeeper in the shutout.
Editor’s note: This story will be updated with further results.