WAIMEA — Conor Hunt had a reminder written on a white piece of tape on his wrist. It read: “flip the switch” — which very well could have been the motto for his Hawaii Preparatory Academy squad in the title game of the 48th Ka Makani Classic on Sunday.
Trailing 3-1 late in the second half against BIIF rival Kamehameha-Hawaii, the HPA boys found that switch, tallying a pair of goals just over a minute apart, forcing overtime and finishing the comeback effort with a 4-3 penalty kick victory. Hunt netted the clinching kick, blasting a no doubt boot down the middle, setting off a rowdy celebration of bounding red jerseys.
“Knowing these boys, I knew something was going to happen. We just had to wait for our opportunity,” Hunt said. “Things can always turn around.”
Ka Makani fell behind 2-0 on the penalty kicks, but goalkeeper Zane Willman came up with some huge stops. With the game on his foot, Hunt didn’t hesitate to put the Warriors away.
“I’m a kicker. I’m used to that kind of pressure,” said Hunt, who is weighing college offers as one of the best field goal kickers in the state. “I’m not thinking about anything but it going in the back of the net.”
It was the second penalty kick victory for Ka Makani in as many days, having advanced to the championship by beating Kalani.
“It’s been a test of character for us, both yesterday and today,” HPA coach James Berry said. “I’m proud of how the boys responded to the adversity this early in the season.”
Hunt said the team drew from their experience last year in the tournament, when they trailed 3-0 at halftime of the championship and ended up edging Kapolei 5-3 for the koa bowl trophy.
“It’s becoming tradition,” Hunt said with a laugh.
Ka Makani is looking to replace 13 seniors who were a core part of building the soccer culture in Waimea. Hunt and Noah Balaam are among the only returning starters from last year’s team that won the BIIF Division I title.
“They set the bar high for us. It’s way up there,” Hunt said. “We have some big goals.”
Hunt, one of the captains, commended the efforts of the young guns on the roster for stepping up, most notably his brother, sophomore midfielder Mason Hunt.
“He’s been away from the sport a few years, but balled out today,” Conor Hunt said.
Now back in D-II, the matchup between Ka Makani and the Warriors could be a BIIF, or even state championship preview. If it’s anything like Round 1 of the renewed rivalry, it’s going to be quite the ride.
“We are looking forward to it,” Berry said of competing with Kamehameha-Hawaii during the BIIF season. “A solid game all around. I was very pleased with their performance as well as ours.”
Ka Makani came out quick, with multiple scoring chances within the first five minutes. Daniel Jose Vidal Gayoso eventually broke through to put Ka Makani up 1-0.
But the Warriors rebounded from the slow start in the whipping rain and wind behind some stellar defense. They scored the next three.
HPA narrowed the gap on a header from Grayson Phillips on a corner and an incredible individual effort from Balaam, who tip-toed the sideline before collecting the equalizer with 10 minutes left.
Kamehameha has a quick turnaround, hosting Kealakehe in its BIIF opener on Tuesday. HPA faces Makua Lani on Wednesday in Kona.
Best of the rest
Mililani finished in third on the boys side with an 8-0 victory over Kalani. Kealakehe lost a consolation to Mid-Pacific 3-2. Maui bested Makua Lani for seventh place.
For the girls, Campbell won the tournament, holding off Maui 2-1 in the championship. Konawaena finished third.
HPA, the six-time defending Division II state champs, finished the tourney 1-2 after a 3-1 loss to King Kekaulike in the consolation game Sunday.
Kealakehe beat Kalani 2-0 for seventh place.