Kailua beats rival Castle to clinch playoff spot
A 26-21 comeback win over its Windward side rivals was satisfying enough for Kailua.
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A 26-21 comeback win over its Windward side rivals was satisfying enough for Kailua. Throw in the fact that the victory over Castle also punched a ticket to the OIA playoffs after a one-year absence and Surfriders coach Joseph Wong was elated.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way. Myself and (Castle) coach John (Hao), we texted each other to have a good showing tonight,” Wong said. “It’s always going to be like that with Castle and Kailua. It’s just an all-out team effort.
Both sides scored touchdowns on their opening drives. Koali’i Kohatsu hauled in a 16-yard pass from quarterback Cameron Friel with 10:04 remaining in the first quarter, while Castle responded with Kala Matthews’ 1-yard rush with 6:23 to go in the opening period.
Castle then extended its lead after two key Kailua follies. A loss of 28 yards on a high snap killed Kailua’s next drive, and the Surfriders had to punt from their own end zone. The Knights took advantage of their field position with Matthews’ second 1-yard rushing touchdown. Then after a muffed punt return, Matthews took in his third score from 14 yards out with 7:31 left in the second quarter.
The first half was all about Matthews. The wide receiver turned wildcat quarterback rushed for 127 yards in the first half, with all 17 attempts coming via direct snap. Matthews finished with 151 rushing yards.
The Knights (2-6, 2-4 OIA DI) had a 21-6 lead until Kailua (4-5, 3-2) rolled the dice and went for it on fourth-and-goal with 21 seconds left in the half. The Surfriders were rewarded for their boldness when Cameron Friel hit Samson Rasay for a 5-yard score to cut the deficit to 21-12 heading into the break.
The tide turned quickly in favor of Kailua in the third quarter. The Surfriders made it 21-19 after Raynen Ho-Mook reeled in an 18-yard touchdown from Friel. On Castle’s next possession, linebacker Hastings Yee Hoy picked off Matthews to set up another 5-yard touchdown from Rasay, this time of the rushing variety. It proved to be the game’s final score with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.
Castle came away empty in the fourth quarter, but the Knights certainly had their chances. Friel threw his lone interception of the night to Justice Ching with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter, giving Castle the ball at midfield. The Knights turned the ball over on downs in the red zone.
Castle’s final opportunity was immense, as Kailua fumbled a punt on its own 23 with 1:33 left, but four consecutive incompletions sealed its fate. With the loss, the Knights are eliminated from OIA playoff contention, one year after appearing in the OIA Division I championship game at Aloha Stadium, a 32-3 loss to eventual state champion Waipahu.
Kailua, meanwhile, will be either the 3 or 4 seed in the four-team playoff depending on next week’s results. It will be its first appearance in the OIA playoffs under the new format instituted before the 2018 season.
“It’s good. We expect to be there every year. For these guys, it’s a credit to them for working hard in the offseason and throughout the season and just plugging away, and fighting through adversity like they did tonight,” Wong said.