Tigers, Knights ready for rematch
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
For the second time this season, the Castle and McKinley football teams will meet.
Except this time the stakes are higher, as they face in the semifinals of the Chevron State Championships. Kickoff is 8 tonight at Aloha Stadium. The winner plays the winner of the 5 p.m. semifinal between St. Louis and Waimea.
During the regular season, Castle rallied to beat McKinley, 26-22, in a game that both teams made a number of mistakes, whether they be turnovers, missed coverages or mishandled balls. It was a game that could have gone either way.
"It will come down to whoever makes the least mistakes will win," McKinley coach David Tanuvasa said. "Castle doesn't make too many mistakes."
The Knights (9-4), ranked third in The Advertiser Top 10, are on a roll, having won six consecutive since a 20-12 loss to two-time defending state champion Kahuku, which did not qualify for this year's tournament. Castle has been an opportunistic team, taking advantage of others' mistakes.
Still, the fifth-ranked Tigers (9-4) pose a threat. The Tigers are bigger on the line of scrimmage and are balanced offensively.
"It's an immense challenge," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "If I had my druthers, I'd rather not face them."
The Knights are coming off a 35-0 win against Hawai'i Prep in last week's quarterfinals. It marked their second consecutive shutout they beat Kailua, 25-0, for the OIA championships and third for the season. Castle's defense has had interception returns for touchdowns in its past two games.
Castle's defense relies on quickness in rushing the quarterback, stopping a running back in the backfield or swarming to a receiver after a catch. Linebackers Cory Daniel, Blaze Soares and Elde Agcaoili are active and seemingly in on nearly every tackle. Daniel led the Knights with 13 tackles against HPA.
Defensive end Soli Lefiti (6-3, 205) is lean, but agile enough to finesse by large blockers. It should be a concern to McKinley, which allowed four sacks against Baldwin.
The Tigers' offense is balanced enough to keep the Knights honest. The Tigers are one of the better passing teams with quarterback Abel Werner, who has completed 208 of 326 passes for 2,810 yards and 23 touchdowns during the regular- and post-seasons. Wideout Isaiah Iaea has good hands and speed that helped catch 61 passes for 1,187 yards and 10 TDs. But slotback Lama Lauvao sprained his wrist while bracing for a fall in the Baldwin game. He is questionable, but would be probable if his position didn't involve catching the ball, Tanuvasa said.
Running backs Michael Vasconcellos (4.5 yards per carry) and Quinton Sayers (6.5), as well as slotback Joshua Bumanglag (5.3), are threats on the ground when defenses play loose for the pass.
"They pose some problems because they (pass and run) equally well," Maeda said.
So do the Knights.
Quarterback Jacob Ramos (1,254 yards, 11 TDs) likes to connect with receiver Jared Suzui, who has 52 receptions for 781 yards. But look for running back Kawika Sebay (4.6 yards per carry) to carry the load on running plays.
McKinley's defense is just as active as Castle's. Defensive linemen Randy Faletoi and Jacob Talamoa give the Tigers threats up front.
"They're very athletic, have good speed and are big," Maeda said of McKinley's defense.