No. 8 Leilehua kept itself in the race for the top seed in the OIA Division I playoffs with a resounding 41-13 win over Castle in a game in which the visiting Mules (6-1, 4-1 OIA D-I) repeatedly pounced on the Knights’ (2-4, 2-2) errors.
Unfortunately for Leilehua, it doesn’t control its own destiny to get said top seed. Its lone loss came to No. 6 Moanalua (5-0, 3-0), a narrow 24-20 defeat at home on Aug. 30. But on Friday, the Mules played like a team in total control.
The Mules scored early and often in Kaneohe. Kekoa Turangan’s 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal with 5:34 left in the first quarter was the game’s first score.
On their first possession, the Knights came away empty-handed when Cheydon Costa missed a 30-yard field goal. Just a couple of plays later, Jemell Vereen took a handoff 63 yards to the house for Leilehua to double its lead to 14-0.
Castle fumbled on its next offensive play, and Leilehua capitalized again with Kalei Akagi’s 9-yard touchdown pass from Turangan. The Knights fumbled again on their own 49 on their first possession of the second quarter, and Leilehua went up 27-0 a few plays later on Turangan’s second touchdown pass of the half, a 38-yard toss to Jayzon Ramos.
“I just gotta find a way to sustain the blocks offensively. The defense played tough but they gave up some big rushes, but that was just missed assignments,” Castle coach John Hao said. “We gave up a lot of fumbles. More than one is too much. One is too much.”
Down 34-0 in the third quarter, Castle responded with two quick touchdowns. But shortly after, Kawela Kaluhiokalani’s 7-yard touchdown on an option pitch gave the Mules another big lead and proved to be the game’s final score.
“We just have to continue that,” Hao said of the spark the two third-quarter touchdowns provided. “In the meantime, back to the drawing board and Moanalua it is.”
As Hao mentioned, it doesn’t get easier for the Knights, who travel to Salt Lake to take on Na Menehune next Friday.
There was no handshake after the game as both teams headed in opposite directions. The Mules made a beeline for the bus. Despite the win, head coach Mark Kurisu declined to comment after the game and made his players unavailable for interviews as well since they were already on the bus. It is unclear what caused both teams to not shake hands.