Wednesday, September 19, 2001
[ PREP FOOTBALL ]
Castles double threatJOEL Botelho is the type of quarterback Tylenol was invented for.
Castle quarterback Joel Botelho
can beat you in the air or on the
ground, and he believes
in his teammates
By Jason Kaneshiro
With his ability to dissect a defense with laser-guided passes or tear its heart out by scrambling for a key first down, the Castle High School senior has opposing coaches running to the medicine cabinet on a regular basis this season.
"His ability to avoid the sack and make something positive out of a negative situation probably gives defensive coaches a lot of headaches," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said.
The Knights have emerged as contenders in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference this football season thanks in part to their multifaceted signal caller.
"Joel is the key to our offense," Castle slotback Loren Lum said. "He can run, he can pass and he blocks."
Botelho leads Castle into an OIA Red showdown with nationally-ranked Kahuku Friday night at Aloha Stadium. Both teams enter the contest with 3-0 regular season records.
Botelho, the OIA White Conference's offensive MVP last year, is the leading passer in the OIA Red this season. But he knows he'll face few defenses as physically imposing as the Red Raiders, who have surrendered a conference-low 175 yards per game.
"Kahuku's an awesome team," Botelho said. "Big, physical and pretty scary on the line. ... We just have to focus on what we have to do and try not to think about who we're playing against."
Botelho has thrown for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season to lead a Castle offense averaging more than 435 yards per game. The Knights are second only to Kailua in the OIA in total offense.
Botelho's two favorite targets, slotback Ikaika Ho and wide receiver Treston Kaneao, are the conference's top two receivers. Lum and Random Ah-Mow have also proven to be reliable targets.
"Those guys make me look good out there," Botelho said. "There's a few drops here and there, but there are also a lot of bad passes out there. They do their best and they make me look good as a quarterback. ... I wouldn't trade them for anybody else."
Botelho is a member of Windward Oahu's talented triumvirate of quarterbacks. Kahuku's Inoke Funaki and Kailua's Taleki Mailau have also led their teams to undefeated records in the OIA Red. In fact, with Kalaheo's 2-0 start in the OIA White, Windward Oahu teams are 10-0 this season.
At 5 feet 8 inches and 155 pounds, Botelho knows he'll probably have to change positions if he pursues college ball. But few seem better suited to play quarterback.
Botelho began playing quarterback at age 8 with the Kaneohe Knights junior pee wee Pop Warner team. His fluid left-handed throwing motion and icy presence in the pocket are indicative of a lifetime spent under center.
When he takes the snap, Botelho surveys the defense with an ease bordering on nonchalance before throwing a dart to a receiver or sidestepping frustrated pass rushers.
"He's cool under pressure because he has a pretty good understanding of the system," Maeda said. "He knows exactly where everybody is supposed to be and he knows where he's supposed to go when he faces a certain kind of coverage."
And if the offense does stall, Botelho can alter the field position battle as the Knights' punter.
Botelho transferred to Castle as a sophomore after two years at St. Louis School. He spent a season polishing his skills under the tutelage of the Crusader coaching staff. But he credits the Castle coaches for helping him develop the intangible qualities required of a quarterback.
"The coaches (at St. Louis) pick up a lot of little things, like your stance is wrong, or you're holding the ball wrong. They gave me all the little details about the game," Botelho said. "But when I came over here, Coach (Afton) Smith helped me become more of a leader as a quarterback. He told me 'you should be a quarterback on and off the field,' and that's what I'm trying to do.
"(Last year) I was kind of in the back of the crowd, but I'm not going to make the same mistake. I'm a senior now, this is my last chance and I'm going to try to make the best of it."
Botelho's leadership skills surfaced moments before the Knights' breakthrough victory over Waianae Aug. 31.
"I just told the team, 'If anyone doesn't believe we can beat them, leave the field now,' " he said.
Botelho went on to pass for 305 yards and rushed for 150 more in the 55-35 win.
Castle will need another big game out of its quarterback in order to topple Kahuku this week.
"As the team captains we told the team that we can't be scared," Botelho said. "They're a big team and they're very physical, state champions last year. It's just that we want to come out and not just roll over for these guys. We want to try to make a game out of it."
And while Botelho is responsible for moving the team down the field, he prefers to have others reach the end zone. Ho has three touchdown catches and running back Ola Keliiholokai is second in the conference in scoring with six touchdowns.
"I'd rather pass for a touchdown than run it in," he said. "It makes me feel better seeing that they get the glory. I'd rather just sit back and watch."
But if it means picking up a first down, Botelho has been more than willing to turn upfield and take on defenders, which can induce migraines on his own sideline.
"Sometimes we get really concerned, because when he's scrambling, we'd rather him run it out of bounds or slide," Maeda said. "But he's going to put his head down and see what he can get."
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