As Hawaii Prep’s players charged the field to celebrate, coach James Berry stayed near the bench and talked to athletic director Stephen Perry.
They had something new to discuss after Berry joined the state championship club.
Ho hum, just another Saturday for the soccer power in Waimea.
Seniors Conor Hunt and Daniel Vidal Gayoso scored goals, senior Grayson Phillips continued to be a team pillar and Ka Makani kept another clean sheet at Oahu’s Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex. It added up to a 2-0 victory against top-seeded Kapaa and fourth state championship in five seasons for HPA, which stamped a successful return to the Division II tournament.
“We definitely came out strong,” said Hunt, who set the tone for the match with goal in the ninth minute. “Grayson Phillips, shoutout to Grayson, who gave us a big pregame speech. He got us teary-eyed almost. This was the seniors’ last game, it meant a lot for us.”
The beat goes on for HPA, which has doubled up in girls and boys state titles in four of the past seven seasons, thanks in large part to Perry’s Division II girls dynasty. The boys add a trophy to a case that also includes D-II crowns in 2016 and ‘17, and co-D-I championship in 2018.
“HPA’s a small school, but big wins, it means everything,” Hunt said. “I’m so proud of the community.”
In his second season after formerly being a girls assistant, Berry bagged his first title – and his last. He and his wife, Heather, are set to move to the mainland to be closer to family.
“This is our coach’s last game at HPA,” Hunt said. “There was a lot of motivation.”
And as usual for Ka Makani, there was also a lot of talent on hand.
Gayoso, a Spaniard who came to the school for his senior year, scored on a drop shot in the second half, giving him four goals in the tournament to go along with a hat trick in the quarterfinals.
HPA (13-3) – which finished the season on a six-match win streak – didn’t even need all his production, never allowing a goal at Waipio in outscoring its three foes 7-0.
“This is one of the funnest groups I’ve ever been around,” Berry said. “As they went on to the field after halftime, they chantted, ‘1-2-3, family.”
Phillips, a co-captain who came to the school for his senior season when his father was hired as headmaster, spearheaded the backline in front of goalkeeper Zane Willman, a senior co-captain who was beaten once – sort of – in the final.
Keanu Brown’s direct kick caromed off the cross bar and bounced harmlessly away, but other than that close call, HPA was largely in control in handing the defending champion Warriors (10-1-1) their first loss.
Berry knows what many are thinking – HPA should have stuck in Division I. It was a big topic of conversation at the state tournament.
“In reality, we are a small school with 374 kids, and we’re very fortunate to have (off-island) kids that come into the program and kids in the community that come into the program,” he said.
“We don’t recruit, I don’t know where that idea comes from,” Berry said. “If Grayson’s dad isn’t hired as headmaster, we don’t get Grayson. The headmaster wasn’t hired because of his son. Daniel could have chosen another school, and then we don’t get him.
“HPA has its own culture, and they have a family. They work hard for each other. We perpetuate that in our soccer program.”