Castle’s stunning comeback clinches playoff spot

Castle's Senituli Punivai ran through Aiea's defense and scored a touchdown during the first quarter. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

A 21-yard field goal attempt was all that stood between Castle and an improbable comeback victory over Aiea on Saturday night.

No point in trying to guide the chip shot, Knights kicker Cheyden Costa told himself with four seconds left in regulation. He was going to boom the kick.

“I just felt a little nervous there but I thought to myself ‘It’s just a practice thing.’ I’ve been doing it over and over again,” he said. “I felt great. It felt like the ball was zooming through the sky after that kick.”

After Costa’s field goal went through the uprights with plenty of distance to spare as time expired, Castle found itself 30-27 victors of a game it trailed to Aiea by 20 points entering the fourth quarter.

There was a visible mix of reactions from the Castle sideline after Costa’s kick went through. Some Knights were exuberant, while others were too exhausted to celebrate after breaking off 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. But all of them were relieved.

“I think I had about three heart attacks just now,” Castle head coach John Hao said. “The kids did exactly what we asked of them in the second half and the score showed it.”

Castle’s fourth straight win after an 0-4 start put their OIA D-I record at 4-3 to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot. The Knights’ final two games of the regular season are against ‘Iolani and Damien of the ILH, which won’t count against their OIA record. The loss dropped Aiea to 2-4 in league play. Kailua and Radford also have four losses and Nanakuli is 0-5.

“We better go back to the drawing board and move on to our next,” Hao said, focusing instead of Friday’s home tilt against No. 9 ‘Iolani.

Aiea built a 27-7 lead with three touchdown passes from quarterback Kayson Castillo to Zacharia Kalahiki-Basque, who finished with five receptions for 77 yards.

When Kalahiki-Basque and Castillo hooked up for their third score of the day with 1:19 to go in the third quarter on a 9-yard fade, Aiea had a 20-point lead.

Then the wildness began.

Castle trimmed the Aiea lead to 27-14 with 11:14 left in the fourth quarter after Senituli Punivai’s 2-yard rush and Costa’s PAT. The Knights then caught Na Alii off guard and recovered the ensuing onside kick. Backup quarterback Samuel Judd entered the game and provided a spark, driving Castle into Aiea territory. The Knights cut the Aiea lead to 27-20 on Bruce Pakele’s 6-yard rush with 8:49 to go.

“It’s like a four-headed monster,” Hao said of his backfield. “I got (Keanu) Tilton, I got Pakele, Tuli (Punivai). They were bringing the house and that’s why I brought Sammy in. He made completions that really mattered.”

Judd revived the Castle passing game, completing five of his eight passes for 77 yards and no interceptions. It also freed up Punivai to focus on lining up at tailback, where he finished with 126 yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns in an ironman effort. Punivai also completed 6-of-12 passes for 31 yards and an interception before yielding to Judd behind center.

“Shoutout to my defense for doing what they gotta do, giving us the ball back,” Punivai said. “I’m so thankful for this team. I wouldn’t trade it for any other team. These are my brothers. Like Coach said, let’s just go back, fight, keep fighting and here we are. We got the dub.”

After Castle forced another Aiea three-and-out, the Knights drove back down the field and tied the game after Punivai’s third rushing touchdown of the day and Costa’s point after with 4:11 to go. Na Alii chose to go for it when faced with a fourth-and-1 on their own 45 but got stuffed with 2:02 left. Castle continued to ground and pound until taking its last timeout before Costa’s game-winner.

The Knights did not lead all night until the clock hit 0:00.

“Anything is possible. Coach kept encouraging us, keeping us on the process, and we just kept pushing and didn’t let our heads down. We kept fighting,” Punivai said. “Thanks again to the defense for going out there and their fight, and for my linemen for getting me the yardage.

“I never felt this emotional in my life but man, it was a hell of a game.”

Aiea’s Dylan Soberano (5) tackled Castle quarterback Senituli Punivai (7) during the second quarter. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


  1. Rebel September 30, 2018 6:52 am

    Good win Castle. Hard to compete when it’s 11 vs. 13…Lot of bad calls and no calls by refs late in game but that’s Hawaii officials. Guess them Castle “tackling drills” paying off…oh well.. Aiea
    needs to go back to drawing board…

  2. Hmmm? September 30, 2018 7:15 am

    Must be those Castle “tackling drills”

  3. Bob Hogue September 30, 2018 10:24 am

    Reminds me of a similar 4th quarter comeback by Castle in 2000 season led by quarterback Joel Botelho. I recall it being one of the most stirring comebacks I had ever seen. Congrats to the Knights!

  4. ??? September 30, 2018 2:56 pm

    Great comeback by Castle coach Hao’s players; Aiea’s players played hard but not the whole 48 minutes.
    Aiea’s Coach is Done!!

  5. i was there at the Game October 3, 2018 11:37 am

    Phooey! I was there the game, thought Aiea played well with the 22 players they had, must be like 7-8 players going both ways. Thought they did the best they could with what they had. Amazing they jumped out to a 20 pt lead.! Great comeback by Castle to win the game. they just wore Aiea down in the 4th quarter. The officiating though, defies comment, terrible! Good Luck to both teams as the season closes to an end.

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