Mililani and Punahou
awarded top billing

By Nick Abramo

It's no surprise that Mililani and Punahou are the top two seeds for this week's 2003 Meadow Gold Boys State Soccer Championship Tournament.

The Oahu Interscholastic Conference champion Trojans and the Interscholastic League of Honolulu-winning Buffanblu represent two of the most successful soccer programs in the state.

Top-seed Mililani (11-0-1) is gunning for its third straight state title under coach Jeff Yamamoto.

"It's a different team than last year," Yamamoto said. "Six starters are different, but we still have some key returners.

"We look forward to playing at Waipio Peninsula (where all tournament games are scheduled). It's wider with more space and more time for the players to react. It will make the offensive side better and the defensive side tougher."

The Trojans are coming off a thrilling 1-0 league-clinching victory over Pearl City last Saturday.

Yamamoto relies on his three captains -- forwards Nathan Amous and Whitney Shimatsu and midfielder Brent Murakami -- to keep the ship's motor going.

"Whitney has been on the team for four years and he's the leader of the team, leading by his actions," the coach said. "Brent, the only junior of the three, is more of the vocal type, and Nathan is a quiet, quick player who does phenomenal things with the ball."

Darren Smith, in his first season as a goalkeeper, was also a huge plus for the Trojans in their OIA title drive.

The tournament starts tomorrow with two games at 1 p.m. (Kamehameha vs. Roosevelt, Hawaii Prep vs. Castle) and two games at 3 p.m. (Kauai vs. Moanalua, Pearl City vs. Honokaa).

The seeded teams -- Mililani, Punahou, Baldwin and Hilo -- swing into action Thursday. Games continue through Saturday's 8 p.m. title showdown.

Punahou (12-0-2) hasn't won a state title since 1998, but it captured seven state crowns during the 1990s.

"The ILH is tough, but we came though it very well against tough teams like Kamehameha and Pac-Five," Buffanblu coach Bob Clague said.

"The states are always wide open. I don't know much about Baldwin. Those outer-island teams are always a mystery. You just don't know what you're going to get. And it looks like Pearl City has been playing well but was unfortunate in the game against Mililani."

Punahou's success has been built on the shoulders of captains Tamatoa Hackney and Kevin Lenahan, both midfielders. David Semenza, who recovered from two shoulder surgeries, has been solid at the keeper position, while freeing up jack-of-all-trades Andrew Strand (last season's keeper) to play elsewhere.

"Andrew can play anywhere. He's a very dedicated player, very serious, the type who goes out and practices on his own," Clague said.

The Kauai Red Raiders (7-0-1) are one of those outer-island mystery teams that Clague speaks about. They're led by senior forwards Mason Chan and Koji Nakaya and junior midfielders Justin Toulon and Ross Brandeburg.

"It's a very difficult tournament with many good teams," Kauai coach Mark Brandeburg said. "If we remain patient and keep our focus, we'll do well representing our league."

Yamamoto is glad his team got a slight break in the bracketing.

"We know Punahou, Baldwin and Pearl City could all beat each other," Yamamoto said. "Not to downplay the bracket we're in, but that side of the bracket with those three teams is the pool of death."

Meadow Gold Boys
State Soccer Championship

(All games at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex)
Seeded teams

1. Mililani (11-0-1), 2. Punahou (12-0-2), 3. Baldwin (10-0), 4. Hilo (15-1).
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Game 1: Kamehameha vs. Roosevelt, 1 p.m.
Game 2: Kauai vs. Moanalua, 3 p.m.
Game 3: Hawaii Prep vs. Castle, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Pearl City vs. Honokaa, 3 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 13
Game 5: Losers of Games 1 and 2, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Losers of Games 3 and 4, 3 p.m.
Game 7: Hilo vs. Winner of Game 1, 1 p.m.
Game 8: Punahou vs. Winner of Game 3, 3 p.m.
Game 9: Baldwin vs. Winner of Game 4, 5 p.m.
Game 10: Mililani vs. Winner of Game 2, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 14
Game 11: Losers of Games 7 and 10, 2 p.m.
Game 12: Losers of Games 8 and 9, 4 p.m.
Game 13: Winners of Games 8 and 9, 6 p.m.
Game 14: Winners of Games 7 and 10, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 15
Game 15: Winners of Games 5 and 6, 2 p.m.
Game 16: Winners of Games 11 and 12, 4 p.m.
Game 17: Losers of Games 13 and 14, 6 p.m.
Game 18: Winners of Games 13 and 14, 8 p.m.

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