The tangled web of the East isn’t what the Castle Knights wanted when the season started.
At this point, though, they’re happy to be in mix. A 29-28 come-from-behind win over then-No. 2 Farrington pushed the Knights into a tie for second place, within reach of top-ranked Kahuku.
With Moanalua playing well, plus a host of competitive squads from Kailua to Roosevelt, the East is again a beast of a division. That’s why an 0-2 start in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East, would not have been ideal.
"Coming off a loss to Moanalua, another loss would’ve really put us in a hole," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "We’d lost to Farrington the last five times, but the players never quit. They had a good character-building moment, and we were a little lucky."
The ninth-ranked Knights are glad to be at home again — they have some of the most vocal backers in the league — with a matchup against Kaiser tonight.
"They may be winless, but it’s pretty deceiving," Maeda said. "They’re very athletic, very big in the trenches."
Maeda pointed to Cougars defensive lineman Lopeti Fonokalafi and wide receiver Jourdan Solomon as two of the threats.
"Fonokalafi is a beast in the trenches. He’s manhandling centers," Maeda said of the Kaimuki transfer. "Solomon has a tight end’s body playing wide receiver."
Solomon is 6 feet 3, 220 pounds.
Size, of course, won’t win games alone. The Knights got past a bigger Farrington squad with superb passing by Jaymason Lee (372 yards) and his core of slotbacks and receivers. Joshua Kong had five catches for 138 yards.
"Now Josh is playing with great confidence. He also played great on defense," Maeda said of Kong, who lines up at slotback and safety. "I think defensive coaches are much more aware of Josh, but we’re spreading the ball around. There isn’t anybody you can key on."
Here’s a look at this weekend’s matchups.
» No. 4 Farrington at Roosevelt: The Rough Riders (0-3, 0-1 OIA) used two quarterbacks in last week’s high-scoring loss at Kailua, but one bugaboo remains — rush defense. They allowed 319 yards to Saint Louis and 235 to Aiea.
» Kailua at No. 10 Moanalua: Kailua’s win over Roosevelt was, possibly, a breakthrough game for a program committed to a balanced offense. Sophomore Kahaku Iaea passed for 306 yards, including a touchdown to running back Isaac "Bubba" Sato for the Surfriders (2-2, 1-1 OIA). Moanalua (2-1, 1-0) has rested since a 10-0 loss at Punahou two weeks ago.
» Aiea at Waianae: It’s been a few years since Na Alii visited Waianae. The Seariders (1-3, 1-1 OIA) may prove to be hospitable off the field and uncompromising on it. They knocked off then-No. 4 Mililani 42-28 last week, but coaches and media left Waianae off the Top 10.
» Kapolei at Radford: The Hurricanes outlasted Aiea 7-0 last week, continuing to play solid defense as the spread option offense matures.
» Campbell at No. 6 Mililani: After last week’s stunning loss to Waianae, the Trojans will have another dangerous foe in the Sabers, a team that went to Waianae and won two weeks ago. However, Campbell quarterback Justin Tago and nose guard Sheldon Maae are out with injuries suffered during a loss to Leilehua last week.
» Kaimuki at Nanakuli: The Bulldogs have allowed just 11 points in their last two games, both wins, and running back Chester Sua (Washington State) has racked up 329 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That includes 267 yards in the two victories.
» No. 5 Kamehameha vs. No. 8 ‘Iolani, at Aloha Stadium: A year ago, the Warriors lost to the Raiders, setting the stage for a fierce rally to the ILH and state titles. This time around, however, ‘Iolani isn’t as stout — defensive tackles Kaena Moose and Sealii Epenesa graduated — while Kamehameha (2-2, 0-1 ILH) remains a team committed to establishing its ground game between the tackles. Quarterback Reece Foy has been a big plus for the Raiders (3-1, 1-0).
» No. 2 Saint Louis vs. Damien, Aloha Stadium: The Crusaders (3-1, 1-0 ILH) won last season’s matchup 44-15. Damien (0-4, 0-1 ILH) has lost 10 in a row.
» Pac-Five vs. No. 3 Punahou, Aloha Stadium: The Buffanblu (2-0, 0-0 ILH) were victorious the last time these teams met (October), and their defense might be better now. Running back Steven Lakalaka is averaging 108 rushing yards per game, but is also a threat as a pass catcher.
» Pearl City vs. McKinley, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: The good news for the Tigers (1-3, 1-2 OIA) last week was a 121-yard rushing performance by running back/cornerback Solomon Dixon (Idaho). The not-so-good news? Anuenue rushed for 362 yards.
» Waipahu at Waialua: The Bulldogs (0-3, 0-2 OIA) will be tested by another potent ground attack. Waipahu (2-1, 1-1) features Victor Moananu, who has rushed for 445 yards and five touchdowns.
» Kalaheo vs. Kalani, Kaiser Stadium: Running back Jesse Carney has rushed for 420 yards and six touchdowns in two games for Kalaheo (2-0, 2-0 OIA).