HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leilehua's Rico Newman took on a pair of Castle defenders in the first half of the Mules' 36-13 win.
Leilehua shuts down Castle
In a game in which the offenses chugged along, Leilehua found a spark with defense and special teams to rally for a 36-13 win over Castle last night at John Kauinana Stadium.
OIA Red Playoffs
» Leilehua 36, Castle 13
» Kailua at Kapolei, 7:30 p.m.
» Leilehua at Mililani, 7:30 p.m.
» Kalaheo at Waianae, 25 minutes after 5 p.m. JV game
» Kailua-Kapolei winner at Kahuku, 25 minutes after 5 p.m. JV game
» Farrington vs. Campbell at Roosevelt, 25 minutes after 4 p.m. JV game
The Mules (5-4) advanced to the quarterfinals of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red Conference playoffs. Castle finished the season 3-4 in league play (3-6 overall).
Penalties sent Castle's offense backward much of the night. The Knights accumulated 16 penalties for 169 yards, most of them for holding and illegal blocks against one of the more aggressive defensive units in the league.
Leilehua trailed 13-0 at one point, but tied it up at 13-all before Robert Siavii and punter Rico Newman came up with a pivotal play. After a 61-yard punt by Newman pinned Castle on its 1-yard line, Siavii dragged down Knights quarterback Thomas Ilae in the end zone for a safety with 1:31 left in the third quarter. That gave Leilehua a 15-13 lead.
After reserve quarterback Kaipo DeRego connected with Allan Macam on a screen pass for a 48-yard touchdown, Siavii struck again. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior picked off a pass for a 35-yard touchdown return, and the Mules led 29-13 with 11:30 to play in the game.
Rick Jones scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:50 left for the Mules.
Defense, however, carried Leilehua into the quarterfinals.
"Our motto is 'Shut D.' Just shut them down," Siavii said.
Castle produced 209 total yards, but the Mules forced four turnovers.
"It's about looking at adjustments by our defensive coaches," Leilehua coach Nolan Tokuda said, still drenched from a Gatorade shower. "They study the video three times a week, then they get the kids ready."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leilehua's Allan Macam made a catch over Castle's Kainoa Aki in the first half last night.
The Mules won despite injuries to quarterbacks Kaipo Kea and DeRego. Both left the game with leg injuries. Leilehua finished with 235 total yards and overcame three of its own turnovers.
The Knights hurried into a muddle-huddle play that gave Bryson Kekahuna a 58-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, but the play was brought back because of an illegal shift penalty on Castle.
Still, the defensive stalemate gave the Knights a chance to shine early in the second quarter. Two plays in a row, Castle's defense stripped the ball from Leilehua running back Rico Newman. It was on the second strip that the Knights struck gold. Linebacker Kawehi Sablan returned the loose ball 56 yards for Castle's first touchdown. The Knights led 7-0 with 10:28 to play in the second quarter.
Five plays later, Kea lost the snap and Castle sophomore Garrett Paredes recovered at the Mules 37-yard line.
Quarterback Thomas Ilae kept the ensuing drive alive with a 22-yard run on third down, and Dylan Matsuda capped the march with a 10-yard touchdown run up the gut. After a missed PAT kick, Castle led 13-0 with 7:13 left in the first half.
All semblance of a secure Castle lead fizzled away in the final 3 minutes of the half. A short field after a poor Castle punt led to a 25-yard touchdown strike from Kea to Macam. Leilehua trailed 13-7 with 2:46 to go in the half.
Three plays later, Matsuda fumbled on a carry up the middle and Leilehua's Peter DeSaulniers returned the ball 14 yards to the Castle 9-yard line. On second and goal, Bronson Pausa scored on a 4-yard run to tie the game at 13 with 1:30 before intermission. The extra-point try was wide left as the teams went into halftime deadlocked.
Siavii had the key defensive plays after the break, but was quick to share the accolades.
"It's just the D-line. All the credit goes to my team," he said.
The Mules added a tight-end look at times to slow down Castle's powerhouse lineman, Solomon Koehler.
"With a great athlete like Sol, you have to try and neutralize him," Tokuda said.