Perhaps it was fitting a senior playing his first year of high school soccer proved pivotal in Waipahu’s first league championship.
Victor Moananu — better known as an all-star running back for the Marauders football team — came up with a save in penalty kicks to put Waipahu in position to capture the title. Neil Guiang then followed with the game winner in Waipahu’s 2-1 win over Radford last night in the Oahu Interscholastic Association White division championship at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
"Waipahu has never been a powerhouse in soccer," Marauders coach Steven Santiago said. "For us to step up and do what we did just tells you the guts these guys have.
"For many of them, the first time they touched a soccer ball was two years ago and now we’ve got them to a point where they’re in the state championship and winning the OIA."
Waipahu will have the OIA’s seeded berth in the JN Automotive/HHSAA Division II Boys Soccer Championship, which opens Thursday at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park.
Both teams secured places in the state tournament with their victories in the OIA White semifinals on Wednesday. Capturing the school’s first OIA boys soccer championship added a prized chapter to a storybook season for the Marauders.
"We’re going to get that banner in Waipahu gym and it’s going to feel great," Guiang said.
The teams met twice in the OIA White regular season with the first match ending in a tie and Radford winning the second 2-0 on Jan. 18.
"We knew what they were capable of and they knew what we’re capable of," Radford coach Geoffrey Maeda said. "We had to play our game and see if we could enforce our game onto them. It didn’t quite work out that way, but that’s the way it goes sometimes."
Waipahu earned a spot in the final by knocking off previously unbeaten Castle, the top seed from the OIA White East, in the semifinals on Wednesday and took the early lead in yesterday’s match.
About 35 minutes into the first half, Waipahu had a throw-in just short of the right corner. Guiang made the throw in just in front of the Radford goal and Mikel Garduque snuck the loose ball past Radford goalie Shane Sanders for the match’s first goal.
Radford scored the tying goal about midway through the second half. A foul gave Radford’s Caymen Conley a free kick from about 55 yards out. His kick sailed over the defense, and Austin Adams gathered the ball and knocked a header into the net.
Neither team could capitalize on opportunities in the final minutes of regulation or in the two 10-minute overtime periods.
Radford missed on its first shot and Waipahu converted on its first three attempts. The fourth went wide and Adams and Waipahu’s Jayson Gonsalves made their kicks to force sudden death.
That’s when Moananu dove to his right and got his hands on a shot by Bailey Grimes.
"The pressure is unbelievable," said Moananu, who likened the spotlight to carrying the ball in high-tension situations on the football field. "It’s like everybody’s counting on you, it’s similar."
Guiang, who played for a youth team coached by Santiago years ago, then sent the winning goal into the right corner.
"When he heard me call him sixth he was kind of depressed," said Santiago, who will share the state tournament experience with his son, a member of the Mililani varsity team. "After the shot I told him, ‘That’s why I made you sixth, because I knew you could get that sixth ball.’ "