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Friday, December 6, 2002


[ HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS ]



Don’t engrave
that trophy yet

Tonight's state title game will
be decided by more than words

Castle will win | St. Louis will win


By Jason Kaneshiro
jkaneshiro@starbulletin.com

If the winners of football games were determined by what appears on paper, stadiums would be awfully lonely places and the state championship trophy might be on its way to St. Louis.



Chevron State
Football Championship

Who: St. Louis vs. Castle
When: Today, 7:35 p.m. Parking lot opens at 5 p.m. Turnstiles open at 6.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Tickets: $7 for adults, $5 for students (K-12). Available at Aloha Stadium ticket office.
TV: Two-day delay on OC 16, 8 p.m. Dec. 8. Replays on Dec. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m.
Radio: Live on K108-AM 1080. Pregame show starts at 7 p.m.



But luckily for everyone involved in athletics, the printed word holds no such power.

So although St. Louis holds the edge in size and statistics entering tonight's final of the Chevron State Football Championship at Aloha Stadium, upstart Castle has ample reason to believe it can keep the crown in Windward Oahu.

The Knights have chopped down big opponents all season to reach the state championship game for the first time in school history. The Castle offense seems to find a way to make big plays when the Knights need it most. And the defense? Find a hornets nest, give it a good whack and you'll find out what it's like to play against the Knights' D.

St. Louis, the state's most successful program for the last two decades, returns to the state final yet another year. The Crusaders last won the title in 1999 and are again blessed with size and power. Perhaps more importantly, they are more determined than ever to reclaim their place as state champions.

But if the above hasn't provided enough impetus to head out to Aloha Stadium, the following are 10 more reasons why ...


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... Castle will win.

1. Small man can: Although Castle is new to the state finals, what coach Nelson Maeda and his staff have been able to do this season is nothing unusual for the Knights' program. The Castle coaches have consistently turned out competitive teams despite a lack of size and depth. This season they've once again proved that physical superiority can be overcome with speed and a sound scheme.

2. Courage under fire: Despite being in the "Big Game" for the first time, don't expect the Knights to come into Aloha Stadium wide-eyed. The Knights have survived more than their share of close calls this postseason and enter the final as a battle-tested unit.

"We've had to fight each week," Maeda said. "Our team firmly believes that somebody's going to make something happen. ... We've been under the gun every week and they've handled the pressure well."

3. Destiny's child?: Castle has needed its share of breaks to get to this point. A blocked field goal turned into a touchdown against Kailua in the OIA championship game and a short punt led to the tying score last week against McKinley. But to attribute Castle's run to destiny might be a slight to the team's effort.

"I think when you call them a team of destiny you're taking away a lot of the credit they actually deserve," St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan said. "You're saying they're lucky, and that's not the case. They've earned the right to be here."

4. Respect your Elde: Castle linebacker Elde Agcaoili is generously listed at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds. Whatever his height, watching the junior fly into gaps at the line of scrimmage to make stops is worth the price of a ticket.

5. Special delivery: Castle kick returners have reached the end zone each of the last three games and could turn the tide of a close encounter. With Jared Suzui and Ikaika Ho returning kicks, members of St. Louis' coverage teams must mind their responsibilities and wrap up the ballcarrier or risk seeing six points go on the board for Castle.

6. Back in black: Castle has dubbed itself the Black Knights this season and although the team doesn't have black anywhere in its uniform, it's hard to argue with the change, given the results.

7. Running down a dream: Most players dread running, and the Knights were no different until they saw how much more spring they had in their legs in the fourth quarter compared to their opponents. Conditioning was once a matter of necessity for Castle, now it's a matter of pride.

"They actually ask to run," Maeda said. "That's the sign of a team that wants to excel."

8. Windward pride: Kahuku has won the last two state championships and Castle hopes to keep the perpetual trophy on the windward side of the Koolaus for another year.

Kaneohe rallied around the Knights as the team won the school's first OIA championship and moved a step away from the state title.

9. A band of renown: As much as the Knights pride themselves on being in shape, they could be rivaled in lung power by the school's band.

The Castle band has served as a boost for the Knights' defense and a distraction for opposing offenses throughout the season. The band's play drew complaints from Hawaii Prep and McKinley the last two weeks and St. Louis and Castle officials have agreed not to have their bands play during the opposing team's offensive possessions this week. Despite the restriction, count on the Castle band to provide its share of noise when the Crusaders have the ball.

10. Because Gene Hackman said so: A local television station aired the movie "Hoosiers" earlier this week. The story follows the Hickory Huskers on their improbable journey to the 1952 Indiana state basketball championship. In the movie's finale, Hickory -- whose school colors are maroon and gold -- defeats powerful South Bend Central in the state final.

An omen? We'll see.


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... St. Louis will win.

1. Big Mo: St. Louis was reeling when back-to-back losses to De La Salle and Kamehameha in September sent the Crusaders on their first two-game skid since 1993. Facing elimination from state contention each week since, the Crusaders have ripped off eight straight wins and are rolling into the state final. Like his predecessor, Cal Lee, did so many times before, first-year St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan has the Crusaders peaking at the right time.

2. Hunger pangs: That rumbling sound emanating from the slopes of Kalaepohaku is the growling in the stomachs of the St. Louis seniors.

After losing in the state final the last two seasons, the St. Louis seniors have one more chance to avoid becoming the first class to not win a Prep Bowl or state championship since the class of 1983.

3. By George ... : Crusader quarterback Bobby George struggled in last year's 21-14 championship game loss to Kahuku, completing just 15 of 37 passes. But he has rebounded to throw for 2,104 yards and 18 touchdowns as senior, and in his third state final appearance George thinks he has found the secret to turning his fortunes around.

"The past two years I've been really nervous before the games," George said. "That experience taught me I just have to relax and do what I have to do."

If George gets comfortable and can stand tall in the pocket, he can make life miserable for the Castle secondary.

4. Wilson Afoa: St. Louis' defensive front took a big hit when All-State end Tolifili Liufau completed his eligibility after the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season. But opposing quarterbacks haven't had a chance to relax, as Afoa has elevated his game. Of his 47 tackles this season, 21 have come behind the line of scrimmage. He has 6 1/2 sacks and has hurried the quarterback 41 times.

5. Going deep: Castle's cornerbacks will have to keep St. Louis receivers Jason Rivers and Shane Butcher on a short leash or it could be a long evening for the Knights. Rivers has greater name recognition, but Butcher enters the final as the team's leading receiver with 774 yards and seven touchdowns.

6. High security: Frank Fernandez (6-2, 275) and Jeremy Inferrera (6-3, 270) are the bookends for a St. Louis offensive line responsible for keeping George clean and opening running lanes for the backs. With Castle looking to pressure George into poor throws, the line's ability to pick up the blitz could open the way for a big night for the offense.

7. Kickin' it: St. Louis hasn't needed to use punter C.J. Santiago much, but when he has the chance he usually comes through. Santiago averages more than 41 yards per punt and has killed 10 of his 16 kicks inside the opponent's 20.

Kaeo Adams is a reliable kicker and could negate Castle's dangerous kick returners with his ability to boot the ball into the end zone.

8. Running wild: St. Louis has long been known for its passing game, but the Crusaders may not have made it back to the championship game if not for the running of B.J. Batts and Justin Cabansag. Cabansag does much of his damage between the tackles, while Batts is threat to go the distance any time he breaks into open field.

9. Sticky fingers: The Crusader defense has intercepted 25 passes in 12 games, led by Pase Fiaseu's five picks and Jonah Lakatani's four. Keao Monteilh picked up all four of his interceptions in the ILH championship game against Kamehameha. St. Louis picked off four passes to spark last week's 51-0 rout of Waimea.

10. Executive powers: Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona is slated to participate in the postgame awards ceremony along with schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto and Chevron's Albert Chee. Although his new office means he's technically a neutral observer, the St. Louis graduate and assistant basketball coach will likely have his support behind the Crusaders.

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