Castle’s ‘small men’
almost did

St. Louis back on top
Batts' return a backbreaker

By Marc Dixon

The St. Louis Crusaders have appeared in all four Chevron State Football Championship finals. This season, the 17-time defending ILH champs matched up against the top high school team in the country in De La Salle, played ILH runner-up Kamehameha three times and faced Kauai champion champion Waimea.

The Crusaders know good teams and they know that they beat a good one last night, defeating the Castle Knights 34-15 at Aloha Stadium for the 2002 state championship.

"We knew from watching videos all week that they were tough and they were going to give us a tough fight," said St. Louis quarterback Bobby George. "When we showed up tonight they showed up tonight. They're a great team and I wouldn't be surprised to see them back here next year."

In a game that seemed much closer than the final indicated, St. Louis was unable to sink the dagger into a Castle team that lives its motto "small man can" to the game's final play.

Evidence of the credo was everywhere, including when 5-foot-8, 175-pound Elde Agcaoili drove through 6-3, 270-pound offensive lineman Jeremy Inferrera and 5-foot-6, 163-pound B.J. Batts and recorded the game's first sack.

There was more of the same in the second half when Castle's Louis Mansanas Jr. launched his 138-pound body into 193-pound Jason Rivers to break up a pass and in the process knocked himself out of the game. Or when the Knights' Kaleo Cordero broke through the massive Crusader line to block a punt leading to Castle's only touchdown, and lastly, when Cory Daniel, attempting to time the Crusader snap, hurled himself over the offensive line. The Knights were there to prove that even though they were small, they did belong.

"We came out to the man with a strong belief that we could compete, we weren't going to back down," said Castle coach Nelson Maeda. "We had nothing to lose."

In addition to giving the Crusaders all they could handle, Castle was simultaneously sending a message to its critics.

"We gave it our all, we don't care what people say, we're too small, we cannot handle, all that," said Castle running back Kawika Sebay. "They say that we were lucky. But luck doesn't win you seven straight games and it doesn't get you to the state championship game. Let me ask you this, how many teams were still playing tonight? Most finished a month ago."

If not for a couple of inches on a couple of plays, the little man might have seized enough first-half momentum to pull the big upset.

If Jared Suzui's heel doesn't touch the out-of-bounds line at the 5-yard line in the second quarter, his touchdown cuts the Crusader lead in half. On the next drive, if Ethan Gonsalves can drag that back foot to stay in the end zone, then the Knights have tied the score.

"We were definitely able to put ourselves in position. We were able to move the ball on them," said Maeda. "If we execute a little better on those plays it would have been an even closer ballgame. I don't know how it would have affected the final game, but the way our season had been going, who knows, maybe we could have pulled it out on them."

While the team of small men were able to demonstrate the size of their heart during the game, it was after that they showed the extent of their desire.

"The underclassmen, next year they're still going to be small, but they can make plays and they'll be back here," said Sebay. "Hopefully, they can win one of those (gesturing to trophy), we'll still be small, but tough and respected."

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