Waianae’s defensive front seven is an imposing group, and it manhandled Castle in the second half of a 21-13 win on Friday in the school’s homecoming game at Raymond Torii Field.
Every time players like senior defensive ends Nayton Kuresa and Maika Koko and senior linebacker Justice Jardine step on the field, opposing quarterbacks better watch out.
And it would be unwise for opponents to ignore middle linebacker Jaylen Gonzales, who was all over the field against the Knights, abruptly stopping them from forward progress.
Gonzales packs a punch into his 5-foot-9, 190-pound frame.
Seariders coach Daniel Matsumoto’s eyes lit up when he was asked about Gonzales.
“He’s only a sophomore, but he doesn’t play like a sophomore,” the coach said. “He’s hard-nosed and he’s got a mean engine.”
And while the front seven get much of the attention, it’s the back seven that impressed Matsumoto the most on Friday.
He said it was the pass coverage that helped the team to seven of its eight sacks in the second half on Castle quarterback Willie Ewaliko, including three-and-a-half by Kuresa.
“Those were coverage sacks,” Matsumoto said. “Our defensive backs and linebackers stayed with their receivers, they stayed disciplined.”
One thing is abundantly clear about the Seariders (3-2, 3-2 OIA Red) and that is their perseverance when the chips are down, especially at home.
Earlier this season, they trailed Moanalua 30-7 before losing 30-27. Against Leilehua, now ranked fourth in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Top 10, Waianae trailed by as many as 27 points before trimming the final count to 19.
And those two games represent only two blemishes on the Seariders’ record.
Against the Knights, Waianae kept pounding the ball on the ground with its trademark option offense and pressuring Ewaliko with it’s blue menace defenders to make sure that a 7-0 deficit did not stand.
Of course, the Seariders got a bit of help from the officials, and even Matsumoto knows what both he and Castle coach Nelson Maeda called “a bad call” may have altered the outcome of the game.
Castle quarterback Stephen Lee threw a screen pass that was dropped and picked up by junior defensive back Mosiah Brame, who ran 22 yards to the end zone. The officials ruled that the pass was a lateral and the ball on the ground was a fumble and not an incomplete pass, so the play stood, with Brame’s touchdown tying it up at 7-7 and shifting the momentum from Castle to Waianae.
Even though it was, by all accounts (including the video in which Maeda said it’s clear Lee threw the ball at least 2 or 3 yards forward) a bad call, Waianae’s alertness also helped.
Brame was just doing what his coaches tell him to do on a close play like that.
“We got lucky on that,” Matsumoto said. “We teach them to scoop and score, especially if the ball is dropped on a pass in the backfield like that and they’re not sure if it’s a lateral of a pass.”
The Seariders’ dominance of the Knights continued. They’ve won 15 of the last 18 meetings since 1973.
Waianae plays at Waipahu (1-5, 1-5) on Friday before finishing up the regular season on Oct. 4 at Aloha Stadium against No. 7 Kahuku (4-1, 4-1), the team that eliminated the Seariders from the OIA playoffs in each of the past three seasons.