KAHULUI - Mattias Thompson is back, and so is the Baldwin High School boys soccer team.
Thompson, the Maui Interscholastic League Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2010, scored two goals to lead the Bears to a 2-0 win over King Kekaulike in a pivotal match Friday evening at Keopuolani Park.
The Bears' third straight victory lifts them to 8-3-0 in the wild MIL Division I race. Defending champion Na Alii (6-4-1) suffered a major blow to their postseason hopes.
Baldwin High School’s Nicholas Lawrence leaps over King Kekau-like’s Kolomona Salomon during the first half of the Bears’ 2-0 victory over Na Alii on Friday in a Maui Interscholastic League match at Keopuolani Park.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Baldwin is third in the D-I standings with 24 points, two behind Maui High and one back of Lahainaluna. The Sabers have played 12 games, one more than the Bears and Lunas. Two teams will qualify for next month's state tournament after the 14-match regular season.
Thompson, who missed all of the 2010-11 regular season with a broken leg, has 15 goals this season.
"Basically now, my hamstring and my calf are bothering me - I have just been taking a lot of ibuprofen to play the games," said Thompson, who next season will play for NCAA Division II Lenoir Rhyne University in North Carolina. "My broken leg is fully healed, but the aftermath has been bothering me. I'm not fully at 100 percent, but I am working my hardest at practice and giving my all for my guys. I'm trying to play like I'm 100 percent."
Thompson put the Bears on top in the 22nd minute, tapping home a cross pass from Nicholas Lawrence. Thompson was snuffed on a penalty kick by King Kekaulike goalkeeper Cameron Baker in the 38th minute, but scored in the 50th from the far right side after a pass from Mitchell Marrs.
One minute later, Thompson had a goal called back for interfering with Baker.
Baldwin and Lahainaluna meet on Wednesday at Keopuolani Park. The Bears then finish with Seabury Hall and St. Anthony, which each have just two victories, while the Lunas have a pair of matches against Hana, which has lost all nine of its games. Maui High will face Kamehameha Maui and King Kekaulike.
"We know it is ours to take if we take care of business," said Baldwin coach Kane Palazzotto. "This really sets up a big game against Lahaina on Wednesday. We got King K out of the way and now we are worried about Lahaina. I'm pretty sure it will come down to that match, but if we don't get a result in that match we could be on the outside looking in because Maui High is right there."
Palazzotto moved Dean Phillips from center midfield to defense earlier this month and it has paid dividends - third-string goalkeeper Kyson-Lee Kaiama, playing because of injuries, was tested very little on Friday, even in a physical contest that King Kekaulike controlled early.
"That was a tough match," Palazzotto said. "King K is a big rival for us, it is an Upcountry-downtown thing, so we always know it is going to be a tough game when we play them. It started off a little slow for my liking, but the boys pulled it through."
Lahainaluna beat Baldwin 4-3 last month.
"We know we need every point out there right now," Thompson said. "We are trying not to think about the race as much as we can. Our motto basically since we have been losing is, 'Just play for each other.' We were kind of letting our egos get in the way and I am just trying to get the guys together as a team."
Palazzotto is happy to have Thompson on the field, no matter how slowed he may be.
"He is the former MIL Player of the Year, what else can I say?" Palazzotto said. "He is healthy somewhat."
Na Alii are not completely out of the race.
"I thought it was a pretty equal match," said King Kekaulike coach Ryan Arakawa. "Baldwin just got that early goal. We kept trying to get in there and get a goal, but it didn't go in for us. We need the next three and we'll see what happens. It has been a crazy season."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com