Thursday, September 30, 2004

Castle and Campbell
play key OIA games

First place is on the line in the OIA's
White and Red East divisions

Campbell and Castle are names with historical significance on Oahu.

Just open up any book about Oahu's past, from Campbell Estate to Castle Medical Center, and the names are unavoidable. But the two names are also the bearers of two high school football programs that are on center stage this fall.

For Castle, this season is perhaps more impressive than usual.

The Knights are 3-0 in Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East action (4-1 overall). They're doing it despite a M*A*S*H unit filled with injured starters.

Castle's success is no surprise, given Nelson Maeda's leadership over the years. The Knights have made a name as giant-killers -- including a heart-stopping 29-28 win over rival Kailua two weeks ago.

Campbell, meanwhile, withstood an enrollment adjustment when neighboring Kapolei opened its air-conditioned classrooms four years ago. The Sabers, now in the OIA White Conference, are off to a 4-0 start in regular-season play.

Castle, ranked sixth in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, takes on No. 1 Kahuku on Saturday in a showdown at Kailua High School Stadium.

Campbell enjoyed its bye weekend and is well-rested for its battle at Waipahu tomorrow. The Marauders are 3-1 in OIA White play, making this matchup vital in the chase for a state tournament berth.

In other key games, No. 2 Saint Louis battles 10th-ranked Punahou in a matchup of run-and-shoot offenses tomorrow at Aloha Stadium. That game will be preceded by No. 9 Iolani and Pac-Five at 4:45 p.m.

In other Top 10 matchups tomorrow, third-ranked Mililani travels to Pearl City, and No. 7 Leilehua hosts Kapolei.

Castle has consistently proven that size alone doesn't win games, but fans around the league don't give the Knights much chance to upset Kahuku.

The Red Raiders have the deepest running-back corps in the state, led by Micah Strickland, a Star-Bulletin All-State selection as a junior at Punahou last season. To make matters worse for the Knights, their middle linebacker, Blaze Soares, one of the top prospects in the islands, is out with an injury.

Maeda's team made adjustments and handled Farrington 34-19 last week.

"Fortunately, for us, the game was such that we were able to play our 2s and 3s in the fourth quarter. Although they scored two touchdowns, it gave us some game experience," Maeda said of his second- and third-stringers. "Farrington is always physical, big and oozing with athleticism."

Castle has made conditioning a staple with year-round workouts. However, overcoming a plethora of injuries is physically and mentally draining, especially on the high school level.

"I really have no answer (on how the team deals with injuries)," said Maeda, who played defensive back at the University of Hawaii. "We've been fortunate that the boys have risen to the occasion to find a way to win. It is impressed upon them the significance and importance in team play."

That means making sacrifices on a level that few top high school teams experience.

"Everyone understands the need to step up their level of play to help compensate for the loss of players. We have at this point, five, six players who are asked to play both ways with spot relief. We have no choice. Our mentality is such that their belief system is they can compete with anyone."

That's where all the stretching, sprints and early Saturday morning workouts -- even after Friday games -- come into play.

"We condition with the thought process of owning the fourth quarter and gaining an advantage when other teams tire. As (former UH coach) Dick Tomey used to preach, 'The game is won late in the fourth quarter,' " Maeda said.

"We've been lucky. Kahuku will be a good gauge of where we are."

Across the island, the Sabers are in their third year of 'winging' it on the gridiron. In 2002, coach Tumoana Kenessey recognized that his program always had a stable of good, quick running backs, but not a lot of size in the trenches.

The solution? The Delaware Wing-T offense.

Not to be confused with the Wing-T used at Punahou and Saint Anthony in recent years, Campbell's Wing-T has a slight deviation. One of the three backs takes his stance behind the tight end, creating a wing.

"It's very different from Punahou," said Kenessey. "They ran the old Knute Rockne kind of Wing-T."

Punahou dropped the wing offense three years ago in favor of its now-dangerous run-and-shoot.

Campbell is proving, however, that a retro offense can work, at least in the OIA White. Campbell's formation allows for one wide receiver, and the rest is a matter of execution.

And of mind games.

Quarterback Shaye Asoau has a firm grasp of the offense.

"He's very smart and makes good decisions. He's a general on the field," Kenessey said of the senior, who transferred from Kaimuki, where he was the Bulldogs' starting quarterback last year.

Asoau, an Ewa resident, came to Campbell in the spring.

"We had him on defense, but we knew he could play the Q spot," Kenessey said. "One day he said, 'I can play quarterback for you if you want.' "

It was a blessing for the Sabers, who had no returning experience at the position.

Campbell's hopes for a state tourney berth were buoyed by the team's chemistry this fall.

"They're working harder, staying eligible. You can see it in their eyes," said Kenessey, dean of student services at the school. "They have a sense of purpose, and they all know no one player makes the game."

In fact, with the first quarter close to an end, the Sabers spent much of the week hitting the books.

"This year's team went through hardship last year," said Kenessey, now in his 16th year of coaching, including five as head coach. "They had to learn how to play together. We picked up momentum from the last few games of last year."

According to Kenessey, Asoau has a good chance to play strong safety at the Division I level. Isaac Laupola, one of the state's top receivers, has the size and speed to play at that level, as well. So do defensive end Kealii Basham and guard Keone Gaui.

For now, however, the Sabers will have to deal with a tough, cohesive Waipahu team that knows how to run the option. Austen Benito, a 6-foot senior, is one of the most explosive option quarterbacks in the state.

Whether the Marauders can withstand Campbell's old-school offense is another question.

"They played us tough last year, but it's a guessing game," Kenessey said.

Radford, which has good quickness defensively, had as many as 10 in the box against Campbell.

Campbell won 45-0.

High school football


Farrington at Roosevelt, 7:30 p.m.
Kaimuki at Kailua, 7:30 p.m.
Mililani at Pearl City, 7:30 p.m.
Aiea vs. Waianae at Mililani, 7 p.m.
Campbell at Waipahu, 7:30 p.m.
Kalaheo at Waialua, 7:30 p.m.
Pac-Five vs. Iolani, at Aloha Stadium, 4:45 p.m.
Punahou vs. Saint Louis, at Aloha Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Kapaa vs. Kauai, at Vidinha Stadium, 7:35 p.m.
Kamehameha at Konawaena, 7:15 p.m.
Kohala at Waiakea, 7:15 p.m.


Kahuku vs. Castle, at Kailua, 6:30 p.m.
Kapolei at Leilehua, 6:30 p.m.
Hawaii Prep at Ka'u, 7 p.m.
Hilo at Honokaa, 7:15 p.m.
Kealakehe at Keaau, 7:15 p.m.



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