As the women of the United States and Japan face off in yet another huge soccer match it’s a good time to look at the subject of rivalries.
Actually, any time is a good time for that — as long as they’re legit.
U.S.-Japan in women’s soccer? It’s the real deal, after it was one-sided to the tune of 22-0-3 for the Americans before Japan won the 2011 World Cup and the U.S. beat them for the Olympic gold medal the next year.
Locally, we’ve got an endless supply of high school rivalries that even spill out of sports and into things like band and robotics.
One natural geographic rivalry took a few years to get brewing after Mililani High (home of the current state football champions) came into existence in 1973 in the new suburban community of the same name. Leilehua had existed as a sports powerhouse in Wahiawa seemingly forever.
Leilehua’s rival was Radford, largely because both schools had plenty of military dependents.
But one game and one kick in 1980 changed that. James Millwood clearly remembers Mililani’s 15-14 win, its first against Leilehua in football.
"It was the first game that Leilehua lost on their home field in 10 years," said Millwood, then a Trojans lineman who later served as their head coach. "They had their championship team from 1940 on the sideline to honor them for their homecoming game."
An Army dependent who had just arrived in Hawaii on July 4 of that year kicked a 39-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to give Mililani the win over the Oahu school most associated with the Army.
"I was just a 15-year-old kid who’d never played football. … I didn’t even know how far it was going to be," said Rick Thiede, who was attempting his first field goal ever in a game.
He’d made a 50-yarder in practice the day before, catching the attention of coaches John Kauinana and Skippa Diaz.
"The real legends are the defense that shut out Leilehua’s offense in the second half and our wishbone offense that controlled the ball on long, time-consuming drives," Thiede said. "Only after the game did I realize what a big deal it was. Had the rest of the team not stepped up during the second half, there would not have been a kick to talk about all these years later."
The Trojans still finished second to the Mules in the Central District at 6-2. It was Leilehua’s only loss in a 7-1 regular season before falling to Waianae in the playoffs.
The Mules had gone ahead on two touchdown passes to Kyle Mosley. It was Mosley’s senior year, and he had every reason to be bitter over the loss. Instead, he became friends with many of his school’s new rivals, including Millwood and the kicker who kicked the Mules.
Millwood said before that game Mililani already considered Leilehua its rival. But this is what made it a two-way street.
"Before it was like how Hawaii considered BYU a rival but (BYU’s) rival was Utah," Mosley said.
Thiede now lives in Missouri. Soccer was his first sport, and he coached his daughters, Tori and Allie, when they were kids. The U.S.-Japan game gets his full attention Sunday.
After all, he can appreciate a rivalry. He helped get one going.
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4783. His blog is at hawaiiwarriorworld.com/quick-reads.