High school sports returns with focus on “getting these kids back doing what they love”

  • West Hawaii Today file photo Hawaii Prep’s Noah Balaam – playing last year against Kamehameha – will be able to have some sort of senior soccer season.

Normally, Hawaii Prep’s boys soccer team would try to be a machine, playing equal parts robotic and ruthless, while working toward a towering yet tangible goal.

The operative figure would be five, as in the number of consecutive BIIF championships HPA owns and overall state titles its seeks.

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All those desires are on hold.

When Ka Makani take to the pitch this weekend, coach James Berry is making sure his team plays with “appreciation,” a word that will be written on the wristbands of coaches and players.

“An appreciation for each other and an appreciation to everybody who helped get these kids back on the field,” Berry said. “It doesn’t do anything for the trophy case, it doesn’t do anything for hanging banners in the gym. It’s about getting these kids back doing what they love.”

Welcome to the Big Island winter high school sports season, destination HPA or Kamehameha, the two private-school hosts and the primary players. BIIF titles won’t be in play, but championships take a backseat during a pandemic, when winning can be defined by merely being able to play.

Hawaii Prep’s girls basketball team hosts Christian Liberty on Friday night in what will be each teams’ first games in more than a year.

“The girls are so excited to play, they are going to come out ready and with so much momentum,” HPA coach Lacey Hester said. “They are chomping at the bit.”

On Saturday, boys and girls club soccer teams from Kealakehe will play Ka Makani in Waimea.

Hayato Fukumitsu said you also can call Kealakehe’s boys team “Riders FC.” The players are from Kealakehe High and it’s largely the team Fukumitsu would coach during the BIIF season.

The group got in a good month of preseason conditioning at the beach, but practices have been hard to come by lately, with many players busy with club workouts.

“The idea is to give the players an opportunity to get out there and play, hopefully more than one game,” Fukumitsu said.

Kealakehe and HPA’s soccer teams also are slated to meet again Thursday.

“Of course, our timing with each other and being able to possess the ball may be a little off,” he said. “But they are hungry, and they want to play.”

HPA athletic director Stephen Perry said COVID-19 testing protocol’s vary by school. Ka Makani test their athletes weekly. Spectators aren’t allowed during a four-sport calender that run through March 6, but contests and events will be streamed live, when possible. Berry said athletes coming to HPA’s campus Friday and Saturday are expected to go directly to their venue, then back to their vehicles afterward.

“HPA is erring on the side of being overcautious,” Berry said. “When it comes to the county guidelines, we will be well within the limits (for soccer). That’s not by decree, but the school is very caution about their students and campus.”

Ka Makani started practicing in November, and cuts were made in January to form a roster that includes the “three “Noahs.” Seniors Noah Balaam and Noah Furchner and sophomore Noah Condon.

If anything, Berry said he’s had to put less of a focus on conditioning this preseason, but he expects HPA’s teamwork, tactics and technical play to be close to up to speed.

“We are going out as competitive as we can and making it as close as we can to what a regular season can be,” Berry said. “Especially for the seniors, these boys work hard to get that uniform, to have that name on the roster, to be part of a successful program. It would be unfair to go out and just have a nice little kick-around, a hurrah.”

Winter season

Friday

Girls basketball

Christian Liberty at Hawaii Prep, 6 p.m.

Saturday

Soccer

Girls, Kealakehe at HPA, 2 p.m.

Boys, Kealakehe at HPA, 4 p.m.

Wednesday

Girls basketball

Christian Liberty at Hawaii Prep, 6 p.m.

Thursday

Soccer

Girls, Kealakehe at HPA, 2 p.m.

Boys, Kealakehe at HPA, 4 p.m.

Feb. 20

Swimming, at HPA, 10 a.m.

Feb. 23

Boys basketball

Hawaii Prep at Kamehameha, after 5 p.m. JV

Feb. 24

Wednesday

Girls basketball

Christian Liberty at Kamehameha, 6 p.m.

Feb. 25

Boys basketball

Konawaena at HPA, after 5 p.m. JV

Feb. 26

Soccer

Girls, HPA at Kamehameha, 2 p.m.

Boys, HPA at Kamehameha, 4 p.m.

Feb. 27

Cross-country, at Kamehameha, 9 a.m.

Swimming, at Kamehameha, 11:30 a.m.

Girls basketball

HPA at Kamehameha, 5 p.m.

March 3

Girls basketball

Christian Liberty at Kamehameha, 6 p.m.

Boys basketball

Konawaena at HPA, after 5 p.m. JV

March 4

Soccer

Girls, Kamehameha at HPA, 2 p.m.

Boys, Kamehameha at HPA, 4 p.m.

March 5

Girls basketball

Kamehameha at HPA, 5 p.m.

March 6

Cross-country, at HPA, 9 a.m.

Swimming, at HPA, 11:30 a.m.

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Boys basketball

Kamehameha at HPA, after 4 p.m. JV

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