Waveriders roll to BIIF championship
KEALAKEKUA — Kealakehe’s recipe goes something like this: It starts with preseason conditioning on the beach, then the Waveriders transition to practice before hitting the Big Island Interscholastic Federation season.
The end result is usually the same. The Waveriders were once again the last team left standing, and in this instance they were shouting in celebration Saturday night at Julian Yates Field.
Avery Hardie-Jordan scored three goals spanning the first and second halves as Kealakehe put away Hilo 6-2 for its fifth Division I boys title in six years.
The Vikings (8-5-2) actually scored first, courtesy of Dane Miyata’s goal in the eighth minute, but they were just playing into Kealakehe’s hands.
These were a focused bunch of Waveriders, and when they saw the challenge they quickly met it.
“It was fantastic,” coach Urs Leuenberger said. “I want to credit Hilo for coming and playing us tough. They wanted to beat us. When a team wants to beat you, it opens things up.”
In this case, the Waveriders opened things up via set pieces, their specialty.
Connor Keale tied the match in the 20th minute off a corner kick with the first of his two goals, and by the time Hardie-Jordan had completed his hat trick just four minutes into the second half, Kealakehe led 4-1.
The script for the final followed many of Kealakehe’s matches during the regular season: It scored off set pieces and then ran away and coasted.
Asked what makes Kealakehe so hard to defend on set pieces, Hardie-Jordan deferred to Keale.
“Just fighting for the ball and not letting players push you away,” he said. “Don’t take it from players.”
Keoni Yates showed off his leg with a goal off a free kick in the 68th minute.
Keale, Hardie-Jordan, Yates, Jason Kuwada and Logan Whitney are the five players that Leuenberger refers to as the team’s spine.
“He thinks we’re as good as any group in the state,” said Hardie-Jordan, who narrowly missed a fourth goal late in the match. “It’s OK, I already had three.”
Added Keale: “It’s more than just the spine. Everybody contributes. It’s chemistry.”
The Vikings also scored on an own goal.
Coach Buddy Betts told his returning players “to remember this. This is how it’s like. You got a taste.”
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team,” he said. “We had our ups and downs, but this will help us later on in life. These are a great bunch of boys.”