Though his temperament has cooled off, the competitive side of Kalai Hanohano remains.
Hanohano said he was at times "hot-headed" last year, attributing it to his age. This year, the senior on the Kamehameha boys soccer team is focused, leading a young squad, and is a mainstay on a defense that allowed just four goals during the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season.
The Warriors (7-1-2) won the league title and are seeded first in Division I in this week’s JN Automotive Group/HHSAA Boys Soccer State Championships to be played at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park. First-round matches begin tomorrow.
"Last year, I was kind of hot-headed, just young I guess," said Hanohano, whose team plays the winner of the Moanalua-Mililani game in Thursday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal. "This year, I got a little bit more serious, just tried to focus and push these guys to work hard."
Hanohano said he’s still aggressive, but has tried to minimize his fouls and be a smarter player on the field. One of the team’s captains, he’s played a big role in leading a young squad.
"Leadership plays a role," Hanohano said. "My other captain and I, we try to lead by example, to work hard and help them understand."
Hanohano is just part of a collective effort on the field. He said his team’s chemistry, along with passion and heart, helped the Warriors through a competitive ILH season. Defending state champion Punahou (7-2-1) finished one point behind Kamehameha, 23 to 22, in the ILH and opens play in tomorrow’s opening round against Roosevelt. Both of Punahou’s losses have come to Kamehameha.
"Our defense is real solid and there’s no one player better than the other," Kamehameha coach Andrew Ah New said. "Every one of them did great this year. Without defense, you don’t win championships."
Added Hanohano: "We have a lot of experience on defense, so that really helps a lot. Our defense, we all have good size and that helps with strength and we can control the back more (and) distribute the ball."
Ah New noticed the change in Hanohano’s emotions and saw him buckle down and step into a leadership role to help the Warriors.
"As long as the competitiveness is there," Ah New said. "That’s the key."
Honokaa, the Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion, is the top seed in Division II and opens play in the eight-team bracket on Thursday against Radford, the Oahu Interscholastic Association runner-up. Honokaa lost in last year’s championship to Mid-Pacific. Mid-Pacific (2-7-1) plays fourth-seeded St. Anthony, the Maui Interscholastic League champion, on Thursday.
The Division II final is Saturday at 5 p.m., with the Division I final to follow.