The Hawaii Rush and Kona Rage soccer players had a blast running up and down the soccer field, feeling like it was old times again.
The Rush defeated the Rage 7-0 in a Hawaii Youth Soccer Association game in a boys 14 & under match Saturday at St. Joseph’s field.
It was one of the first games to return after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in March.
It was also a beautiful day for soccer under clear weather in the face of Hurricane Douglas.
The return also came on the third consecutive day of a new daily high for coronavirus cases with 73, exceeding Friday’s high of 60 cases.
No players wore face masks but everyone followed safety procedures. There were no handshakes, spectators maintained a six-foot distance, and everyone departed as soon as the game finished.
Despite the threat of Douglas, the field was fairly dry and played to the liking of the Rush, who dominated ball possession.
Zyan Ha Ahu scored four goals, Will Henderson added two, and Gabe Arquitola had one.Rush goalie Jacob Aiona recorded the shutout.
The Rush players started practicing in May under safety protocols, no more than 10 people at a time, including coaches.When the county allowed teams to practice together a couple months later, the players worked on their conditioning, running to get into game shape.
“We’re slowly, finally getting back in the game,” Rush coach George Ichimaru said. “With the Hurricane and COVID-19, it was good to get out and enjoy the sport that they love.
“We’re a young team, and you’ll be reading about a lot of the kids in a few years.”
One of those players is Ha Ahu, a Kamehameha seventh-grader, who’s skilled with the ball at his feet.
“We call him ‘Slim.’ He positioned himself well,” Ichimaru said. “He’s technical and got instincts. To score four goals is really good.”
Henderson added to the firepower with a pair of goals.
“He’s very crafty,” Ichimaru sad. “He’s still rusty. Once he got in the groove after 20 minutes, it felt natural for him.”
Ichimaru felt no concerns about the pandemic. He wore a mask and noted that all his players departed once the game ended.He’s a teacher at Hilo High and a soccer coach as well. He’ll eventually return to school on Aug. 4, the start date for the public schools.
But he’s not worried about the pandemic. He felt the game was a good first step on the unpredictable road back to some type of normalcy.
“It was a good first step to a good, slow start,” he said. “It was good to see the kids out there and enjoy the sport that they love.”