Castle was a real pain in Kahuku’s side in Kaneohe on Friday, but only for a quarter and a half.
After that, the Red Raiders went into battle mode and scored 38 unanswered points in a 56-19 win.
Knights coach Nelson Maeda, who is known for squeezing the most out of his teams and individual players, looked like a genius midway through the second quarter.
That’s when Castle held a 19-18 lead and were in charge of the game’s momentum against the state’s fourth-ranked team.
And then it all slipped away due to Kahuku’s big dogs at running back who posed the “You like stop us?” question. The Knights tried in vain to answer in the affirmative.
So, what’s in store for Castle (1-3, 1-3 OIA Red) as we get deeper into the season? Well, it looks like it’ll be scratching to make the playoffs and must finish strong in the final three regular-season games, starting Friday at Waianae (2-2, 2-2).
After that, it’s home games against Kaiser (2-2, 2-2) and McKinley (0-5, 0-5).
Maeda had the players’ full attention on the field after the loss to Kahuku (4-0, 4-0). He stood and they sat listening while the assistant coaches pondered that near-glorious 18 minutes of football to start the game that put the Red Raiders in a bit of a hole.
“Too bad we didn’t give Kahuku a better game all the way through,” said Maeda right after the talk to his boys (and one girl, kicker Laura Tyler). “They’re positive. This was a confidence-booster for them. We put them (the Red Raiders) in a position they weren’t used to. We had the momentum, so now we’ve got to learn how to sustain it.”
Maybe the Knights can use their early solid effort as a springboard into Friday’s game against the Seariders.
Kahuku coach Lee Leslie, who said he was frustrated more than worried when his team was down 19-18, also mentioned that he wasn’t surprised by Castle’s never-say-die effort.
“I have a lot of respect for (Maeda) and how hard he works to prepare his team,” said Leslie, who is in his first-year with the Red Raiders. “We knew they would be ready to play us.”
Defensively, Tristan Ilae was a force for the Knights in the game. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown after teammate Kaikiohua Piena hit Kahuku quarterback Tuli Wily-Matagi and the ball popped loose at the Red Raiders’ 2.
Ilae also had a tackle for loss.
On offense, Chad Figueroa showed he was a capable and slippery receiver with four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. He had a slow start, with two drops on the Knights’ first two plays from scrimmage. Figueroa also beat the Kahuku defenders deep several times, with passes from quarterback Willie Ewaliko just out of his reach.
On Figueroa’s 19-yard TD catch from Ewaliko, he made a leaping catch in the end zone with the Red Raiders’ John Ofahengaue-Farley draped all over him.
Royce Simeona-Townsend ran down Kahuku’s 270-pound bull of a running back Salanoa Alo-Wily to save a touchdown. Despite being dragged down from behind, Alo-Wily galloped 46 yards, and, two players later, scored from 3 yards out.
“We battled for one-and-half quarters,” Maeda said. “And then the floodgates opened. We started to have breakdowns on special teams that gave them a short field and they were able to put us in a bind by punching it in. We also started to have too many three-and-outs. When you give Kahuku the ball right back like that, they know how to take advantage of it.”
It’s going to be a long bus ride to Waianae on Friday, but Castle will see what it’s made of as both teams fight for a playoff spot in the OIA Red. The Seariders eliminated the Knights from the playoffs last year, so if Castle can turn the tables, that 36-mile bus ride home will seem a lot shorter.