CLOSING THE BOOK: 2019 Castle Knights

Castle's Kala Matthews (4) followed his offensive lineman to pick up yards in a game against Leilehua. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

>> 2-7 overall, 2-4 OIA Division I

>> John Hao is 25-26 in five years as a head coach and 10-20 in three seasons at Castle

>> WR/RB Kala Matthews, 5-4, 180, So.; QB Kila Kaio, 5-8, 130, So.; WR AJ Igafo, 5-7, 150, Jr.; DB Kela Harbottle, 5-4, 140, Jr.



Three years after Nelson Maeda was shown the door, nothing much else has changed in Kaneohe.

The Castle Knights are still a plucky band of scrappers looking for an upset or three. Castle won two games this year despite giving up more than 30 points per game in each of John Hao‘s seasons, the first time that has happened in program history.

All a coach wants to do is see his team improve every day and Hao’s charges have certainly done that in his three years, capped by last year’s magical playoff run and this year’s near miss.

The Knights averaged 19.2 points per game this year, down from the 21.6 the previous year. The defense allowed 33.3 points per game, nearly a field goal per contest more than the previous group. Although the differences were minimal, the team won three fewer games than a year ago.

The Knights have yielded more than 30 points per game for three straight years, the first time that has happened in the school’s long history. Hao’s teams have allowed three of the six largest points against per game in program history but has improved off the program-worst 37.5 he had when he took over for Maeda.

Castle’s point differential was minus-14.1, five points above 2018. Teams with the same point differential include Wendell Look‘s 1995 ‘Iolani (3-9) team, 1974 Kalaheo (2-7-1) under Fred Hilliard and Kealoha Wengler‘s 2012 Anuenue squad (2-7).

The Knights finished the season with four straight losses, but it could have been much different, playing Kailua and ‘Iolani to within a touchdown to close the book.

Hao tried to open the offense up a bit, calling for passes on 42 percent of the snaps to 38 percent last year, but the offense ran more than 100 fewer plays from scrimmage than last season.

Sophomore Kila Kaio ran the offense as the quarterback, beginning the year with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Kapolei and keeping the efficiency up until a late-season visit to Moanalua when he was victimized for six interceptions, completing more passes to Na Menehune (six) than his own teammates (five). Despite the egg the promising youngster laid at Moanalua, Kaio was the first Castle player to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a season since Willie Ewaliko‘s senior year in 2015.

Kala Matthews took over as wildcat quarterback after the Moanalua game and Kaio was never the same with the limited work. Mana Kahoopii actually had the best performance of the season under center, going 10-for-12 for 185 yards and three TDs and no picks against Waipahu. He threw only five passes in seven games after that performance. 

Like Senituli Punivai before him, turning the offense over to Matthews made Castle a completely different team. Matthews, a budding track star as a sophomore, didn’t earn his first carry until the fifth week of the season when he got Radford for 70 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. His workload kept building after that, capped by a 36-185-2 performance in the season finale against ‘Iolani. That performance landed Matthews sixth on the school’s single-game rushing chart and was only the second time the Knights lost a game when having a kid exceed 160 yards on the ground. He will go into next season with two straight games over the Century mark, chasing Punivai’s seven in a row last year for most in program history. Matthews finished 2019 third in all of Division I in rushing, behind only Alfred Failauga of Waipahu and Damien’s Amo Sulu.

Chazz Tom didn’t get the volume that Matthews did, but scored five TDs to Matthews’ six despite 32 fewer carries. The Knights had 14 different players with at least once carry, but Tom was the unquestioned No. 2 man. He shined with 20 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown against Damien’s stiff defense but got only seven carries in the next five games.

Not only was Matthews Castle’s top rusher when all was said and done, he was the No. 1 receiver as well, bringing to mind the heroics of Jeremy McGoldrick and the first Knight to pace the program in both categories since Doug Cozloff way back in 1988.

Matthews had receiving TDs in each of Castle’s first three games and was on pace for an outstanding season as a receiver before his targets dwindled late in the year as he focused on running. His 353 yards are the fewest for Castle’s top receiver since 2012. Jonah Figueroa was the No. 2 but started the season as a No. 1 with touchdowns in the first two games, and 12 catches in the first three. He did not hual in another pass until the last game against ‘Iolani, when he caught a 72-yard TD.

With all of the position shuffling, AJ Igafo and Logan Albinio were a steady presence with both players catching passes in every game except one. The Knights had five different players catch 100 yards in passes, the first time that has happened since 2014 when Chad Figueroa, Isaiah LewisRoyce Simeona-Townsend and Taylor Bee hauled in passes from Ewaliko.

Matthews is eligible to return for his junior season next year, and the 5-4, 180-pound speedster can count on being an important part of Castle’s plans. He could be the school’s first three-year starter at quarterback since Alika Kekoanui from 1987-89. But so is Kaio, who is also a sophomore.

Figueroa and Keanu Tilton will be among the biggest losses to graduation, so Hao will have plenty of toys to play with next year.

Castle’s AJ Igafo (20) looked to evade ‘Iolani defenders during the regular-season finale. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

2019 STATS

Kila Kaio976-172-121,1648
Mana Kahoopii417-25-02313
Kala Matthews91-10-290
Kala Matthews91025706
Chazz Tom7602115
Kahiau Kanoa520630
AJ Igafo912590
Kena Miller110370
Logan Albinio81371
Brandon Fey37290
Blaise Aledo-Estocado310250
Keanu Tilton16141
Phinseid Sisra1370
Braven Aipia-Drummundo1110
Kila Kaio938-220
Mana Kahoopii45-340
Kala Matthews9263534
Jonah Figueroa4132653
AJ Igafo9162552
Logan Albinio8182440
EJ Dydasco461312
Ian Pakele12550
Damien Muraoka22330
Chazz Tom72310
Kahiau Kanoa34180
Mana Moe2280
Ryan Dunkirk1160
Blaise Aledo-Estocado3250
Castle’s Kala Matthews (4) rushed for three touchdowns in a loss to Kailua. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Castle’s Chazz Tom rushed for two touchdowns to help the Knights earn their first win of the season against Aiea. Photo by Jay Metzger/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Castle’s Jonah Figueroa (9) went high to catch a pass against ‘Iolani. Photo by Andrew Lee/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Castle’s Kela Harbottle (3) returned an interception against Moanalua. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Castle’s Cheydon Costa (2) attempted a field goal against Leilehua. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Castle quarterback Kila Kaio (8) led the Knights in passing yards as a sophomore. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.


  1. Old School October 14, 2019 11:49 pm

    I don’t think you should compare eras, especially since there are 3 Divisions now. In the last year of the Black Knights, they played 4-5 teams that are in the OPEN….

  2. Jack October 15, 2019 9:25 pm

    Da book is closed. It’s a wrap. Gotta bring back the offseason tackling drills, and the elephant package. Next year maybe get chance.

  3. takumeze October 16, 2019 7:19 pm

    Positive community support with Knights school spirit and personal pride for next year to strengthen the team.

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