Wide Receiver Coby Tanioka is Lighting It Up for the Castle Football Team

Castle is not near the top of the charts in many categories this football season, but one place where the Knights are getting A-plus play is at wide receiver, and Coby Tanioka is leading that charge.

The senior is the state’s leading receiver among Division I (middle tier) players with 748 yards and seven touchdowns, and he also contributes in other ways with 127 yards rushing and six TDs, a 97-yard kickoff return TD and a passing TD.

And even though the speedy and shifty Tanioka is perhaps the brightest of the lights emanating from the football team’s campus in Kaneohe, he sees his teammates as the real shining stars.

“They always put everything they have into it and play to the last whistle,” he told Hawaii Sports Radio Network in a Monday phone interview. “They are always coming out to work hard, no matter that we’ve lost a lot of games. That’s the special thing about our team. Regardless of record, nobody gives up. Everyone wants to be out here. Our record doesn’t tell the full story. We have built a lot from last year.”

Photo courtesy of Coby Tanioka

In terms of wins and losses, the Knights (1-7, 1-4 OIA D-I) are not getting it done, but as Tanioka mentioned, winning is only one way to measure things. Two tough, close midseason losses — 41-34 to Kailua and 24-20 to Farrington — kept them out of something that was very do-able, the playoffs.

“Our game against Roosevelt (27-24 win) was one of our highlights, but I’d say that the Kailua (41-34 loss) game was an even bigger highlight because we came so close and that’s a rivalry game,” Tanioka said.

Believe it or not, Knights coach Junior Pale is not just Tanioka’s coach, he’s also a rooter of sorts.

“I’m a fan on the sideline,” Pale said Monday. “It’s just unbelievable what he does. When he catches the ball, it’s unreal. He’ll accelerate past the safety, who thinks he has an angle on him. When he runs, it’s like he’s floating and making cuts in the air and then he lands and boom. Just smooth.”

Pale mentioned two coaches he knows very well that give more credence to Tanioka’s prodigious ability.

“I’ve been coaching 35 years with Kip (Knights assistant Botelho, the former PAC-5 head coach) and he told me Coby is the best receiver he has seen. And Aiea’s Wendell Say, the first thing he said to me after our game (a 52-35 loss) is ‘Who’s that kid wearing No 2? He (Tanioka) was giving our defense nightmares. Is anybody (college scouts) watching him?’ ”

Photo courtesy of Coby Tanioka

If grades come into the conversation, the kid’s got that covered too.

“He was mad when he got a B and thought the teacher was wrong,” Pale said. “He went to see the counselor and it turned out he was right. He’s a high-standard kid in school and on the field.”

Another highlight for Tanioka is that he grew into a leader.

“This year, my role has gotten bigger,” he said. “I have to be a leader and the coaches rely on me a lot more than they did last year. It makes me a better person because of the need to fulfill that expectation.”

In Castle’s heavy package, Tanioka is a wildcat quarterback.

“He can play QB and slot and he’s a backup safety and backup cornerback, a real old-school, throwback kind of guy,” Pale said.
Another senior is having an outstanding offensive year for the Knights — quarterback Daunte Ching, who has 1,034 passing yards and 7 TDs and 518 rushing yards and five TDs.

In the winter, Tanioka is a guard in basketball and in the spring he’s a sprinter on the Knights’ track and field team. Last spring, he and his 4×100 meter relay teammates won the OIA title and he was an individual placer at the OIA and state meets in the 100 (fourth and seventh) and 200 (second and fifth).

“I’m hoping to do a lot better this year (in the sprints),” he added.

Tanioka would very much like to end this football season on a positive note Friday in the season finale at home against Radford. And he hopes to continue playing football in college.

“We want to finish out the season strong,” he said. “Then I’ll see how I do, see if I can get any scholarships and see what the best plans are from there, even if it’s at a small college.”