McKinley's Jacob Talamoa took down Castle quarterback Jacob Ramos during Friday's second state semifinal.

Feisty Castle proving that
‘small man can’

By Jason Kaneshiro

Throw out the odds. Dump those preseason prognostications. Conventional wisdom? Forget about it.

Week after week, the Castle football team has delighted in its underdog role against heftier opponents to mount a remarkable postseason run. And after pulling out another dramatic comeback Friday, the Knights are one win away from what was once unthinkable -- a state championship.

"Small man can, that's been our theme," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "The Knights have just banded together and refused to quit."

Castle's magical season continues Friday when the Knights take on St. Louis in the title game of the Chevron State Football Championship at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Castle advanced to its first state final with a heart-stopping 27-21 win over McKinley in triple-overtime Friday. St. Louis had a much smoother road to the title game, rolling past Waimea 51-0 in the evening's first semifinal game.

Championship atmosphere is nothing new for St. Louis, which has qualified for all four title contests since the state tournament was instituted in 1999. But the 17-time Interscholastic League of Honolulu champions are wary of facing a squad that has taken on the shine of a team of destiny.

"People have written them off after every win and they just keep winning," St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan said. "Castle has been the underdog every game and they've pulled it out every week."

Friday night's second semifinal game provided a microcosm of Castle's formula for success in their remarkable run this season -- stubborn defense mixed with a big-play special teams unit and an opportunistic offense.

After a scoreless first half, McKinley broke on top with a touchdown early in the third quarter.

The Castle offense had picked up just three first downs in three quarters, but special teams again provided a boost, with Ikaika Ho taking a reverse on a punt return and sprinting 71 yards for a score. It marked the third straight game that Castle returned a punt for a touchdown.

The Knights were sent to the ropes again midway through the fourth period when McKinley quarterback Abel Werner tossed his second touchdown pass of the night.

But the Tigers couldn't put Castle away. After a short punt gave Castle the ball at the McKinley 42 with 1:19 left in regulation, Castle quarterback Jacob Ramos led the Knights on an efficient six-play drive, scoring on a 1-yard sneak with eight seconds left to force overtime.

The teams traded turnovers in the first overtime and touchdowns in the second. The third started with Castle cornerback Ernesto Lopez intercepting a Werner pass in the end zone. The Knights were trying to position themselves for a game-winning field goal when running back Kawika Sebay busted through the line for a 9-yard TD run to send Castle to the championship game.

"Our team never quit and believed to the very end that somebody was going to make something happen," Maeda said.

For Castle's little engine that could, the final stretch in the road to the summit of Hawaii high school football will be the steepest. The Knights face a seasoned St. Louis team that recovered from a shaky start to win eight games in a row and has steadily built momentum in tearing through the season's crucial weeks.

Like every team that has fallen to Castle in the postseason, St. Louis will hold a distinct size edge over the Knights. But the Castle coaching staff has repeatedly found ways to negate opponents' physical advantages with speed and tenacity.

"(Friday) night was the first time I had seen them up close in person and I was very impressed with their team speed," Tengan said. "The thing that impresses me most is how resilient they are. ... Their defense just keeps them in striking distance."

The championship game will be the first for the teams' head coaches, and will serve as a reunion. Maeda and Tengan graduated three years apart from Kailua and coached together on the Surfriders' staff. They also worked on the same staff at St. Louis for a while.

Although Tengan has been through the state tournament grind as an assistant at St. Louis, this will be his first as head coach. For Maeda, the title game marks a significant breakthrough in his tenure at Castle.

"I'm happy for Nelson," Tengan said. "He's been at it for a while and he's paid his dues."

Castle 27, McKinley 21
McKinley (9-5) 0 0 7 7 7 -- 21

Castle (10-4) 0 0 0 14 13 -- 27

McK -- Iama Lauvao 34 pass from Abel Werner (John Mai kick)
Cast -- Ikaika Ho 71 punt return (Ethan Gonsalves kick)
McK -- Isaiah Iaea 18 pass from Werner (Mai kick)
Cast -- Jacob Ramos 1 run (Gonsalves kick)
McK -- Werner 1 run (Mai kick)
Cast -- Ramos 17 run (Gonsalves kick)
Cast -- Sebay 9 run

RUSHING--McKinley: Michael Vasconcellos 21-46, Joshua Bumanglag 1-(-1), Werner 15-(-23). Castle: Sebay 15-70, Ramos 17-39, Jared Suzui 1-4.

PASSING--McKinley: Werner 15-40-4-216. Castle: Ramos 18-29-1-162.

RECEIVING--McKinley: Lauvao 6-97, Iaea 4-84, Vasconcellos 3-20, Bumanglag 2-15. Castle: Ho 6-63, Suzui 6-37, Sebay 4-18, Matt Kanahele 1-32, Ernesto Lopez 1-12.

Hawaii School Web Sites

E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --