In what head coach Nelson Maeda called a ‘rough’ week of preparation, Castle was able to shrug aside their roster issues in a 38-0 opening-night rout over visiting Kalaheo on Friday night.
Last year’s team had as few as 27 players suit up for some games. This year’s squad had a massive upgrade in that aspect with 50 names listed on the roster. However, due to some academic issues and injuries, only 34 were available to play for the Knights (1-0) against the Mustangs (0-1).
“We approached this game with great apprehension because this team is kind of a big work in progress over here,” Maeda said. “It’s been kind of rough and hasn’t been where we want it to be. So it’s a pleasant outcome for us that we were able to do some positive things.”
Castle scored 31 of its 38 points in the first half, including 24 in the second quarter. The Knights had touchdowns negated by a holding call and a false start in the first quarter.
“There were some good plays and some not so good plays, but it was a step in the right direction,” Maeda said. “Hopefully the team can see that if they work harder in practice, things can get better for them on the field.”
The Knights got it done on both sides of the ball, stifling Mustangs quarterback Mark Lerhner with a relentless pass rush. Lehrner lost 31 yards on the ground on nine rushes. The Castle secondary, equally as effective, held Lehrner for 4-for-13 passing for 44 yards with one interception.
Four out of Castle’s five touchdowns were on the ground and all during the first half, led by senior Israel Pakele, who had eight rushes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. Henry Nakamura McCoy, also a senior, added to the rushing attack with 87 yards and a touchdown.
The team returns senior receiver Jeremy McGoldrick, a second-team Honolulu Star-Advertiser all-state selection in 2015. McGoldrick finished with a pedestrian — by his standards — 43 receiving yards and no touchdowns against the Mustangs.
Willie Ewaliko, last year’s starting quarterback, was lost to graduation. Junior Makana Smith got the starting nod for Castle and was taken out in the second quarter in favor of Jaylen Uyemura-Lee. Both are juniors and each took their first snaps as a quarterback on the varsity level last night. Smith is a converted wide receiver while Uyemura-Lee was on the JV team last year.
“We needed to see both quarterbacks under fire. This being a preseason game, the plan was to play everybody as best as we could.” Maeda said. “It was by design that we got to see both play in the game and the score got to be such that we could afford to play all of our people so it was good.”
Of the victory and team effort, Maeda added that “this is going to help us prepare for Radford and our opener next weekend, it’s going to give us some momentum.”
The Rams visit Kaneohe for their first OIA Division I game after winning the state Division II title last season. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 12.