Skill set makes 'Aiea's Puckett best in West
By Leila Wai
By Leila Wai
'Aiea senior defender Mason Puckett spends most of his time on the field trying not to let an opponent score. Yet his ability to turn into an offensive weapon makes him one of the most dangerous players in his league.
"Mason is an animal; he's a beast," Leilehua coach James "JJ" Cabralda said. "He's a great defender, with a great shot. He has a strong leg. He roams, and he'll take that ball from the backline.
"He's a great all-around player. I think he was the anchor of 'Aiea. Without him I'm pretty sure there would be a team who would press and they would have more scoring chances."
Puckett was named the O'ahu Interscholastic Association Red West Division Player of the Year in a vote by league coaches. 'Aiea finished second in the league, allowing nine goals in 12 games. Puckett also scored three goals.
"He's a player every coach would want on their team. He's a pretty good-sized kid, and he played tough," Cabralda said.
Mililani's Aaron Yokoyama and Cory Nakagawa, and Pearl City's Ikaika Matas were named to the first team as forwards.
Yokoyama scored a division-high 11 goals, while Nakagawa added four, but was responsible for most of the Trojans' set plays and attacks. Matas scored four goals for the Chargers.
The first-team midfielders are 'Aiea's Dylan Daguay, Kapolei's Justin Malvar, Leilehua's Maika Kunioka and Pearl City's Gavin Dela Cruz.
Daguay led Na Ali'i with four goals, Malvar and Kunioka two apiece and Dela Cruz scored a team-high six goals.
Puckett, Leilehua's Ryan Ten Broeke, Kapolei's William Wren and Mililani's Kyle Suan are the first-team defenders.
Leilehua senior Daniel Dartt is the first-team goalkeeper, after allowing a league-low seven goals in 12 games.
Cabralda, in his second year as head coach of the Mules, was named the Coach of the Year. The Mules went 2-3-7 with the mentality to "delay, deny, destroy," Cabralda said. "But we couldn't finish. That was the problem."
The Mules finished in fifth place in the OIA Red West, but with seven ties — "I've never experienced it as a player or in my lifetime," Cabralda said. They tied everyone who finished ahead of them in the standings.
Puckett, Nakagawa, Malvar and Dartt are all repeat first-team selections.
Reach Leila Wai at firstname.lastname@example.org.