Castle's Robin Smith, right, and quarterback Jacob Ramos practiced yesterday as the Knights prepare for Kahuku.

Speed matters
in Castle’s defense

Highlights & Schedule

By Jason Kaneshiro

The Castle football team's defense is accustomed to playing in the shadows.

As one of the Oahu Interscholastic Association's smallest teams, the Knights can cool off in the shade cast by the mammoth offensive linemen on the other side of the ball.

But the Castle players revel in frustrating their bigger opponents by darting around them to get to the ball carrier.

"We like to use that as a motivator, teams looking at us and saying we're small and undersized and they should overpower us," Castle defensive coordinator Tony Pang-Kee said.

"We look at that as motivation, to prove people wrong by using our speed and being tenacious and relentless."

The Knights are 3-2 in the OIA East Red Conference and face another physically imposing opponent in defending league and state champion Kahuku tomorrow in Kaneohe.

That Castle is in position to extend its season into the OIA playoffs is a testament to the resilience of an elastic defense that yields its share of yardage but bounces back when it needs a big play.

"We have a philosophy where we're going to bend but don't break," Pang-Kee said. "We know we're going to give up yards based on our size, but our kids believe that we're somehow going to make something happen."

The Knights have a couple of big bodies in Jonah Navarro (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) and Ronald AhToon (6-0, 326), but the team values speed over bulk.

Soli Lefiti (6-3, 205) is a playmaker up front and Cory Daniel (6-1, 180) is the leader of a nimble linebacker corps.

Elde Agcaoili (5-8, 175), Blaze Soares (6-0, 175), Kawika Sebay (5-8, 180) and Antone Watanabe (5-9, 175) also contribute speed to the defense.

"We don't really look at their size, we don't care," Daniel said. "We just try to keep things straight and look forward to the next hit."

Pang-Kee and the defensive staff devise game plans that use the team's quickness to disrupt the rhythm of opposing offenses.

"We want to try to force teams to do things that they may not be comfortable doing," Pang-Kee said. "Because of our size we feel like we're not going to be able to sit there and wait for them to come after us."

Nearly all of the Knights play both offense and defense, so the coaches substitute liberally to keep them fresh.

Jacob Ramos starts at quarterback, but also puts in time at cornerback and free safety. Jared Suzui is the team's leading receiver and also plays linebacker and defensive back.

"The defensive staff has done an outstanding job of wringing every last bit of potential out of them," Castle head coach Nelson Maeda said.

In order to upset Kahuku (4-1, 4-2) tomorrow, Castle will need a defensive performance similar to the one it produced in a 26-22 win over McKinley last week.

McKinley, led by an offensive line that averaged close to 300 pounds per man, used big plays to generate 258 yards through the air. But Castle controlled the line of scrimmage in limiting the Tigers to 54 rushing yards.

The defense kept the Knights within striking distance and the offense responded with two touchdowns late in the game.

Castle forced the Tigers to punt twice in the decisive fourth quarter and made a stand at their own 12-yard line to end McKinley's final threat. Suzui caught a touchdown pass and was in on two sacks in the final period.

"The defense kept us in the game and allowed the offense to chip away and get the ball in good field position," Maeda said.

Pang-Kee set the tone for the defense in the summer by overseeing the team's offseason workouts, which focused on improving the players' speed and agility.

The Knights continue to devote a sizable portion of their practice time to conditioning, knowing they need to be in better shape than their opponents to survive for 48 minutes.

"I don't think anybody likes running, but at the end of the week it pays off," Daniel said.

The Castle-Kahuku game is just one of several contests with postseason implications this weekend as the OIA playoff picture will finally come into focus.

The top five teams from the OIA East Red and West Red and the top two from the OIA White qualify for the league playoffs.


This week's highlights
around the state


Pearl City vs. Kaimuki, at Kaiser: The winner of the showdown between the Chargers and Bulldogs remains in line for a playoff berth and the OIA White title. The loser may need some help.

Pearl City, Kaimuki and Nanakuli are tied for first place in the conference at 4-1. Pearl City is coming off an emotional loss to Nanakuli last week. Kaimuki closes the season against the Golden Hawks next week.

Farrington at Roosevelt: The Rough Riders (2-3) can wrap up an OIA playoff berth with a win in their first game since their stunning upset of Kahuku on Sept. 27.

Farrington (2-4) must win to keep its faint postseason hopes alive.

OIA West Red showdowns: All of the OIA West teams entered the week with a shot at the playoffs, but the postseason fates of several teams will be decided when Waianae travels to Mililani and Radford hosts Waipahu.

ILH, MIL back in action: After a week off, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and Maui Interscholastic League resume their seasons.

The second half of the MIL season begins with King Kekaulike hosting Maui. Kamehameha plays Damien in its first ILH game at Kunuiakea Stadium.


McKinley vs. Kailua, at Roosevelt: The Tigers (3-2, 4-2) must rebound quickly from their loss to Castle as they face the league's only undefeated team.

Kailua (5-0, 6-0) has beaten its opponents by an aggregate score of 251-32.

Kailua quarterback Ranson Kepa leads the OIA in passing with 1,253 yards and has thrown 14 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Only two teams have managed to score against the Surfrider defense.

Hilo at Hawaii Prep: The BIIF regular-season race reaches a turning point when the Vikings (5-0) travel to Kamuela to face Ka Makani (4-1).

Football schedule

Junior varsity games start at 5 p.m. Varsity games to follow, unless noted.


Kahuku at Castle
Farrington at Roosevelt
Campbell at Aiea
Waianae at Mililani
Waipahu at Radford
Pearl City vs. Kaimuki, at Kaiser
Waialua at Nanakuli
At Aloha Stadium
Iolani vs. Pac-Five, 4:45 p.m.
St. Louis vs. Punahou, 7:30 p.m.
Damien at Kamehameha, 7 p.m.
Keaau at Waiakea
Honokaa at Kealakehe
Kapaa vs. Waimea, at Hanapepe Stadium
Maui at King Kekaulike, 7:30 p.m.


Kailua vs. McKinley, at Roosevelt
Moanalua vs. Kalani, at Kaiser
Kaiser vs. Kapolei, at Pearl City
Hilo at Hawaii Prep, 2 p.m.
Konawaena at Kohala
St. Anthony vs. Baldwin, at War Memorial Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

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