Mililani soccer player Liam McGehee’s most memorable athletic endeavor was a moment of affirmation and not even close to making a highlight reel.
That’s not to say that McGehee hasn’t had his highlights. He has. But this one occasion was special because it was unexpected and the giddy feeling it gave him will likely stay in his consciousness forever. It came soon after he and teammate Javon Cunningham were brought up as freshmen to the Trojans’ varsity team for the postseason.
“When each of us went into the game, we had this look on our faces like we had won a million dollars,” McGehee said after a Thursday practice. “We were super excited. It was a rush, something neither one of us will forget.”
As his coach and father Steve McGehee recalls hearing from his wife later, “They were smiling from ear to ear.”
Liam McGehee is a senior midfielder now. He and Cunningham are among the senior leaders working to get the Trojans (7-1-1) as far as they can go in the upcoming OIA playoffs, and, if they qualify, the Division I state tournament.
A year ago, McGehee had a top-notch outing in a 2-0 state quarterfinal win over King Kekaulike, scoring both goals to get the Trojans to the semifinals against Punahou, where they lost to the eventual champion in an excruciatingly hard-to-take 3-2 (5-3 penalty kicks) contest.
Of course, his buddy Cunningham, was in on this one, too.
“Javon, gotta bring him up again,” laughed McGehee. “He got fouled in the box and I scored the PK and later on in the game I scored my second. We needed to win to advance.”
If you’re a football fan and the name McGehee sounds familiar, it’s because he was Mililani’s starting place-kicker his junior year as well as late in his sophomore season, when he was brought up from the JV team (another gaga occurrence of affirmation).
Even though he opted to focus on soccer and drop football as a senior, McGehee was called into emergency service for a nonleague football game against visiting Liberty of Henderson, Nev., last fall. His friend, Kaulana Navares, the new starting kicker, was hurt and the Trojans needed somebody with experience.
“That was a crazy, hectic day,” McGehee said. “I was heading to school with one of my buddies when I got the call. Coach Rod (York) reached out to me.”
It was just another one of those positive-vibe affirmations that seem to follow the kid around.
On the football field, McGehee’s shiniest time came as a junior on a muddy Kahuku pitch, where he kicked a 47-yard field goal. Steve, his dad, recalls the year before at the JV level when Liam kicked a few extra points and a field goal in a victory against the Red Raiders that looked out of reach.
“That was big,” Steve said. “That gave him a little bit of confidence there.”
It was Liam’s decision not to play football this year, but not everyone was overjoyed. According to Steve, Liam had a small contingent of friends and fans who would go to every game.
“And his grandfather was very proud of his accolades on the football field as a junior,” Steve said.
Punting started to be part of Liam’s repertoire when he first started on the football field, but that pretty much ended when, according to Steve, his first official punt hit the upback in the back.
“He’s naturally gifted when it comes to ball striking, especially a ball not moving,” Steve said. “He basically grew up on this (Mililani High) field. I’ve been here 20 years (as an assistant or head coach). So, as soon as he was old enough to walk, he was wandering around on the field. He’s been a part of it for a long time.”
When Liam McGehee is on the soccer field, he looks at his father as a coach only.
“He treats me no differently than anyone else,” Liam said. “As a matter of fact, he’s probably my harshest critic.”
Coach McGehee feels lucky that Liam is naturally a team-oriented player.
“When I go into a game, I want to provide for my teammates, whether it’s a regular pass or an assist,” said Liam, who will play at Whitworth (Spokane, Wash.) next season. “I forget who told me it, but there is this one phrase, something like the best players are the ones who can make others look good. It’s a team sport, so I definitely take it to heart.”
Pretty soon most of the Mililani boys will be changing their looks as part of a continuing team tradition, when they all get their hair cut and bleached blond.
“The bleach tradition has been around for a really long time and we’re not intending to break it,” McGehee said. “It started way back and the main reason was to do things as a team and show that we are all going to buy in for this sole goal (of fighting for championships). In recent years, we’ve been going to Studio Kiss salon in Waipahu. The room is filled with 10 to 20 of us. It’s a really fun experience.”
Mililani Soccer, football
>> Grade: Senior
>> Positions: Center midfielder (soccer); place-kicker (football)
>> Height: 5 foot 6
>> Weight: 135 pounds
>> College soccer commitment: Whitworth University (Spokane, Wash.)
>> Favorite athlete: Lionel Messi
>> Favorite team: Liverpool
>> Favorite subjects: Science, math, writing
>> Possible college track: Pre-med or pre-physician’s assistant
>> Possible career: Something health related