Castle’s Makana Smith proved Saturday that he’s not your typical backup quarterback.
Smith came off the bench to complete 6-of-12 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score as Castle beat host Radford 33-28 in an OIA Division I game.
Smith, a senior, entered midway through the first quarter after starter Jaylen Uyemura-Lee left the game after being sacked. Smith started the game at wide receiver.
Smith completed 35 passes for 333 yards last season, so he’s no stranger to being under center.
“It’s next man up. My first-string quarterback was out and we had to do what we had to do,” Smith said.
It was the first victory at Castle (1-0, 1-1) for first-year coach John Hao, who said after the game he was unsure the extent of the injury to Uyemura-Lee.
“I’m happy for the kids. A victory is a victory. It doesn’t matter how it comes,” said Hao, who served previously as coach of Saint Louis, his alma mater.
The Knights led 33-6 midway through the third period after Bronson Buck‘s 15-yard run.
The Rams got a 12-yard touchdown run by Iovani Alatini late in the third and a pair of touchdown passes from Randy Wright to Michael Pritchard in the fourth. The second scoring pass made it a five-point game with 56 seconds remaining.
Radford’s onside kick attempt was unsuccessful.
“Last year, the season we had, they still showed heart,” said Radford coach Lon Passos, whose team went 0-7 and scored only two touchdowns in league play in 2016. “This year, the kids are a little more committed. The second half, they showed a lot of heart and that’s all I can ask of them.”
Castle’s Smith kept plays alive with his scrambling ability and was able to hit his receivers for big gains.
“That’s probably the best strength I’ve got — keeping plays alive,” said Smith, who added he received about 10 percent of the reps at quarterback during practice this season.
As to why he’s playing receiver this year, Smith said: “That’s my primary position. So I wanted to play that this year, my senior year.”
Castle scored 33 consecutive points over the second and third quarters.
Smith threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Elijah Catrett and a 65-yarder to Kalai Cabana-Zukeran. Smith scored on an 18-yard run and Buck scored on a run up the middle. Castle also scored on a safety on a botched snap in punt formation by the Rams and a 39-yard field goal by Cheyden Costa.
Radford (0-1, 0-1) settled down and got back into the game before falling short.
“Mentally, the kids and the coaches had some mental breakdowns,” Passos said. “We had to regroup as coaches to get the kids back.”
The Rams committed 17 penalties for 180 yards, while the Knights had 14 infractions for 130.
“If the refs throw a flag, you have to let it go and get the next play in already,” Passos said.