OIA Football
Castle snaps 3-game losing streak, hands No. 12 Waipahu first loss


Sat, Nov 20, 2021 @ Waipahu [ 6:30 pm ]

Final 1 2 3 4 T
CAST(2-4-0) 7 10 9 026
WAIP(2-3-0) 0 6 6 719
Joshua Manu 187 yd 3 TD
Daunte Ching 250 yd 2 TD
Joseph Mckenzie 88 yd 1 TD
Coby Tanioka 146 yd 1 TD

WAIPAHU — And then there were none. 

With its 26-19 road win over No. 12 Waipahu Saturday night, unranked Castle assured that no one would run the table in Division I in the Oahu Interscholastic Association. 

Daunte Ching threw for 250 yards and two touchdown passes and Laurin Bunckenburg kicked a pair of field goals to help the Knights (2-3 overall, 2-2 league) snap a three-game losing streak. At the same time, they handed the Marauders (2-1) their first loss of the year. 

Castle never trailed in the contest, but the crowd of about 1,000 fans at the Masa Yonamine Athletic Complex saw the hosts nearly erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. 

Waipahu cut it to a touchdown deficit with 46 seconds to play following Joshua Manu's 12-yard TD pass to Jhonathan Kekoa-Cobb and the ensuing extra point by Connor Wittig. 

The Marauders then attempted and recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The drive started just beyond midfield, at the Castle 49-yard line, with 45 seconds on the clock. 

Manu delivered a pass on-target to Joseph Mckenzie for 12 yards and a first down on the first play of the drive. Manu then found Triton Nieves for an 8-yard pick-up, but was sacked for a 10-yard loss on second-and-2. On third-and-12, Manu's pass for Aston Contado in the end zone fell incomplete, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Knights reset the chains and moved the ball to the 24. 

After Manu missed on a first-down pass, he hit Mckenzie for a 12-yard completion to the 12-yard line. Mckenzie got out of the bounds after the reception, but the clock read zeroes. However, three-tenths of a second was put back on the clock for a final play. Manu had his pass intended for Contado hit the turf, but a defensive penalty allowed for one untimed down from the 6. 

On the untimed down, the ball was on the right hash mark. Manu was in the shotgun, with running back Michael Iaulualo set to his right. Manu looked toward the left side of the field before he escaped the pocket to his right and fired a pass in the direction of Iaulualo in the end zone. However, Castle defensive back Malachi Rombawa batted the pass away a few yards in front of Iaulualo as he made contact with teammate Coby Tanioka, who was also in position to make a play on the ball. 

The pass fell incomplete and the Knights could finally breathe a sign of relief. 

"I think we did something tonight, man," Castle interim coach Junior Pale said. "I think it's great for football, OIA football, for Division I, you know, in this Division I everybody's good and on any night, anybody can be beaten, so I'm happy that we did it tonight and Division I just got a little bit interesting after tonight, so I'm happy for that."

Tanioka, who had 146 receiving yards, including a momentum-turning 91-yard touchdown catch two plays after Waipahu pulled to within 17-12 with about four minutes left in the third quarter, had to be helped off the field after the game's final play. 

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"Heart," said Ching, when asked what it took his team to finish off the pesky — and previously-undefeated — Marauders. "Just finish every play, every drive how we always been in practice. Practice makes perfection and that's what we did."

Ching, a junior quarterback, displayed some inner fortitude himself after he left the game momentarily after he was roughed up late in the first quarter. He completed just 13 of his 34 pass attempts on the night, but his 250 yards through the air were a career best. It was also the first game since the season opener against Roosevelt back on Oct. 23 that Ching did not throw an interception. 

Ching also ran for a team-high 30 yards on seven carries — both season-high marks as well. 

"He was on fire tonight, it was crazy," Pale said of his 5-foot-7, 155-pound left-handed signal-caller. "He had a bad game (against Aiea) last week. We talked to him, he had a good week of practice, was in his ear every day — us coaches — and tonight he showed guts; He showed all guts, good decisions. I just love him. He's just amazing and he played amazing tonight."

Manu found Mckenzie for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 left in the third quarter. Waipahu went for the two-point conversion to cut it to a three-point deficit, but Manu's pass fell incomplete and the score remained 17-12, Castle. 

A holding penalty against the Knights on the kickoff return that followed backed them up to their own 9-yard line. Ching failed to connect with Tanioka with his pass on first down, but he hit him in stride on a slant on the very next play. Tanioka, who was aligned wide to the right of the formation, got inside of the defensive back, secured the pass from Ching and then raced past the rest of the secondary on the 91-yard touchdown. 

"They just scored and we had a little bit of a letdown — I mean, we wasn't down, but you saw it in our kids, in their eyes a little bit — but when we hit that, that was the turnaround for us; that was a big turnaround for us. It boosted our confidence, so that was big and then our defense just showed up after that," Pale said. 

Castle made it a two-score game with Bunckenburg's 32-yard field goal with 1:56 left in the third quarter. 

The Knights led by as many as 14 early in the second quarter after Ching lofted a 31-yard touchdown pass over the shoulder of Kala Estacado-Matthews. It was Estacado-Matthews' second TD catch in a little over a quarter of play; His 10-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Maddux Vilardi — who completed 3 of 4 passes for 18 yards while Ching was tended to by team trainers — opened the scoring with 3:50 on the clock in the opening stanza. 

Waipahu got on the board with Manu's 8-yard scoring strike to Saige Marienthal with 6:29 left before halftime. 

Bunckenburg converted a 24-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to send the Knights into the intermission with a 17-6 advantage. 

The Marauders out-gained the Knights in total yards, 308 to 267, but lost the turnover battle, 2-0; both takeaways for Castle's defense were fumbles recovered by Rusty Bolosan. 

Manu completed 19 of 35 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Mckenzie posted seven receptions for 88 yards and Marienthal tallied six grabs for 62 yards. Iaulualo ran for 70 yards on just eight carries in the loss. 

After his team surrendered 141 points in its past three games — a 49-26 loss to Moanalua, a 49-14 drubbing at the hands of Iolani and a 43-21 defeat against Aiea last week — Pale was happy to see an opponent held to fewer than 20 points. 

"It was huge. We always talk about with this team that we ‘never give up, never give up,' and we gave up a lot of big numbers, especially on defense — forty-plus points three straight games — and, you know, we challenged them this week in practice and they showed up," Pale said. "I just told this defense, ‘you know, let's not go out there and think about winning. Every play let's do as best as we can and whatever happens at the end, we live with it, as long as we do the best we can.' "

Waipahu was 4 of 15 on third downs, while Castle converted on only two of its 17 third downs, but was 2 for 4 on fourth downs. 

The Knights won despite only one first down by rush and a total of minus-1 rushing yard on 24 carries. Four of their 13 first downs came via penalty. 

Ching gave much of the credit for the win to the defense. 

"We needed it pretty much. With everybody, you know, we play as one team. These past three games, it was harsh, really harsh, (but) this defense stepped up, played their hearts out," Ching said. "Offense had minor mistakes, but we gotta fix those things."

The teams were called for a combined 29 penalties for 253 yards, including 16 penalties against the Marauders for 147 yards — six of their infractions were for encroachment. 

Castle closes out the regular season against Kailua (0-4 overall, 0-3 league) Friday night, while Waipahu will host Aiea (2-1) Saturday night and Roosevelt (1-3, 1-2) on Dec. 4 to wrap up its OIA slate. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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