For the first time all season, Kealakehe (7-0) found itself facing a deficit on the scoreboard in Big Island Interscholastic Federation competition. However, the Waveriders responded swiftly to the adversity, downing visiting Hawaii Preparatory Academy 4-2 at Waverider Stadium.
“I was very happy with the way our boys responded,” said Kealakehe head coach Urs Leuenberger. “We felt it was just a matter of time before we would come back. We missed a lot of 100 percent chances early on, but HPA is a competitor that makes you very uncomfortable.”
HPA (4-1-2) opened the scoring with a strike from senior forward Kama Hurwitz. Hurwitz outran the Kealakehe defense and was able to net a rare goal past Kealakehe goalkeeper Greyson Moore.
In three previous games, the Waveriders had outscored opponents 25-1.
Kealakehe forward Scott Henderson has a penchant for finding his way behind opposing defenses, and the speedy senior did just that when his team needed it the most. Just minutes after HPA’s first goal, Henderson sprinted past the HPA defense to put the Waveriders on the board.
“Scott Henderson is just an animal up top,” Leuenberger said. “He’s Mr. 100 percent and always gives his all on the field.”
The Waveriders controlled the ball for much of the contest, but it was not until late in the first half when Marc Takahashi found the back of the net on a stray rebound to give his team a 2-1 lead.
Ariel Lima gave the Waveriders a 3-1 lead early in the second half with a goal in the 41st minute, and struck once more on a tic-tac-toe play with Nicholas Joerz to give the ‘Riders a two-goal cushion.
Braden Kojima had a second half goal for HPA, but with several starters out, Ka Makani’s late comeback attempt was easily stymied by the Waveriders.
Despite the loss, HPA head coach Richard Braithwaite was satisfied with the way his young team battled.
“You always want to win the game, but this is a game we can walk away from very proud of our team,” Braithwaite said. “Kealakehe has such a great squad in every aspect of the game — they play physical, are good at set pieces. To be able to stack up against a team like that with such a young squad really gives us a lot of hope going forward.”
Kealakehe standout senior Keoni Yates functions as the roaming monster of the midfield. Despite not earning any ink on the score sheet Tuesday, Yates is the X-factor who makes the Waveriders offense so potent.
“Keoni holds down the midfield,” Leuenberger said. “He wins a lot of balls with his sheer strength and distributes it so well. He is able to slice passes through and it makes Scott (Henderson) even more dangerous.”
The game took a scary turn in the final minutes of the first half when HPA’s Justin Perry went down and lay motionless for several minutes before being taken off the field in an ambulance.
Braithwaite said after the game that Perry had full feeling in his arms, and the steps taken were purely precautionary.
Kealakehe 4, HPA 4
Kealakehe’s Kailii Smith and Mika Bettencourt scored late goals to complete a thrilling comeback against Division II powerhouse HPA.
Bri Vallente scored twice, and Nanea Tavares, Gabbie Ewing also added goals for Ka Makani (5-0-1).
The Waveriders (3-2-2) battled back from a two-goal deficit twice. Lexi Cuaresma scored the first goal for Kealakehe, and Bettencourt followed with her first of two.
Kealakehe freshman Alysha Prados — playing in place of injured starting goalkeeper Sullivan Schuster — had an impressive performance.