Last season, Castle got significant results in using quarterback Jeremy McGoldrick at wide receiver, who went on to make the 2015 Honolulu Star-Advertiser all-state second team.
This year, the Knights have reaped the rewards of converting Makana Smith from wide receiver to quarterback.
The junior finished Friday night’s contest against Radford with 126 yards on 12-for-14 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. On the ground, he rushed for 105 yards on nine attempts and two touchdowns, leading the Knights (2-0, 1-0 OIA Red) to a 47-6 victory over the visiting Rams (0-2, 0-1 OIA Blue).
“It was just execution at practice,” Smith said with the same calm demeanor he kept on the field. “In practice, it’s just rep after rep on all our plays and if we keep executing it, it’ll go our way like it did tonight.”
Smith kept many plays alive with his elusiveness. He escaped pressure in the pocket when his pass protection broke down and receivers were covered, turning multiple would-be sacks into first-down gains.
“He’s the focal point of our offense,” Castle head coach Nelson Maeda said. “Our quarterback position is the key and he adds another threat to our offense with his feet.”
As a freshman, Smith was a receiver on the JV team. He was brought up to the varsity when he was a sophomore but as a receiver. Though he played some quarterback in Pop Warner, this is his first true high school experience behind center.
“I’m still getting used to it,” Smith said. “It’s still hard here and there getting my reads down but other than that, I’m having a good time back there.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle is Castle’s overall rushing performance on Friday night. The Knights gained 279 yards on the ground on 37 rushing attempts with five touchdowns. Senior running back Henry Nakamura-McCoy rushed for 103 yards with a touchdown and a team-high 15 carries.
Nakamura-McCoy and Smith both rushing for more than 100 yards marks the first time that the Knights have had two players do so in the same game since Brent Taniguchi had 110 yards and Varcus Labatte added 107 against Roosevelt in 1976.
After calling last Friday’s 38-0 victory over Kalaheo a step in the right direction, Maeda called this win “further on down the right direction for us.”
The Knights will hit the road for the first time this season next Saturday night at Mililani, the defending OIA runner-up. Kick-off is set for 6:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” Smith said. “We’ll see what happens.”