Armed Forces Hawaii celebrates milestone year

Seaman Juan Rojas sneaks a shot past goalkeeper Cpl. Mark Cambron during a practice session.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Overall, the Armed Forces Hawaii Futbol Club (AFHFC) has enjoyed tremendous success under the leadership of Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jay Reynard and Chief Electrician’s Mate Luis Zamora.

While the club’s first three seasons were topped off with two trips to the championship game of the Defender’s Cup Tournament, in 2017 the team surpassed all of its previous years by winning the Shield Division of the Defender’s Cup, which is the military’s version of the World Cup.

The club not only faired well on the national scene in 2017, but also did well in local competition by winning the Major Island Soccer Organization (MISO) Division II Championship.

“I think our legacy has definitely been established,” Zamora said. “That’s something that me and Jay talked about a lot.”

Earlier in the year, Reynard said that he had a hard time assessing just how good the team could be, but after seeing everyone together for the first time, all of his doubts were washed away.

As in past years, the 23 members of AFHFC are players from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

“Getting everybody back from TDY was the key,” Reynard said. “When we do have everybody, everyone meshes because of the caliber and quality of the players. Once they are back, they are all on the same page.”

After winning the MISO championship back in May, the team really put things together just in time for the Defender’s Cup, which was held at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland during the Labor Day weekend.

Reynard explained that because the tournament had grown to include 40 U.S. military teams from around the world, officials of the Defender’s Cup decided to cut the field in half and hold two equal championship tournaments of 20 teams each.

Being placed in the Shield Division made no difference to Zamora, who said that bringing back a title to Hawaii was the team’s only goal.

“The past years, we always go with high hopes,” Zamora said. “We want to bring the best team out there to defend our reputation because we’ve done so well in the past. This past tournament was just like any other tournament. We picked the best players to represent Hawaii and thankfully everything worked out well.”

Reynard said that the team excelled during the knockout rounds, one of the schedule’s toughest matchups, and just kept it going in the title showdown against McConnell Air Force Base from Wichita, Kansas.

“Going into the knockout rounds, that’s when everyone is at full strength,” Reynard said.

“We were playing against high competition and was able to come out on top. At the end of the day, going into knockout rounds, we scored 13 and only gave up one.”

In the championship game, the team’s focus only sharpened. The team outscored McConnell 3-0, before finally allowing one goal to win 3-1.

“At the beginning of the second half, we were up 2-0,” Zamora said. “We definitely dominated the whole game. We gave up one goal, but that was us not paying attention, I guess.”

Heading into 2018, both Zamora and Reynard both said that they would continue to pursue the goal of developing AFHFC into one of the top military soccer teams in the country. To have already placed Hawaii on the map as a team to be reckoned with is a dream come true, Reynard said.

“We just started it as, ‘hey let’s get a team together and see what we can do.’ Everyone knows about the team now. We’re getting contacted, so the legacy is 100 percent there. Very proud to have a legit team with great sponsor and support from Joint Base. It’s more than we could ever ask for.” To inquire about a spot on the AFHC, email armedforceshawaiifc@gmail.com.

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Category: Sports