Running backs like Alfred Failauga don’t come around these parts too often.
Waipahu’s all-time leading ground gainer is back for his senior season this fall and he’s focused on leading the team to the promised land again.
There’s also a major record in front of him that he can take, but he’s not thinking too much about that despite numerous requests to expound on the possibility of his making history.
Nothing could be better for the whole Marauders squad than repeating as Division I state champions. The school got its first taste of that nectar, led by Failauga in his junior year and a stifling defense.
“You can’t replace experience and that’s what Alfred brings,” said Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho, whose team checks in at No. 7 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason Top 10. “He’s mature and that’s the way he’s always been, even as a freshman. His personality has always been the same, which is great. He’s a leader who saw the program built to what it is now. He knows the expectations of the program and translates it to the rest of the players and that’s very important.”
Failauga and can get around you or go through you and he is 631 yards away from breaking Hawaii’s all-time rushing record.
In his three years on the varsity, he has rushed for 3,919 yards and can pass record-holder Vavae Malepeai of Mililani, who ran for 4,549 from 2013 to ’15.
“Alfred is the kind of guy who knows when to turn it on,” Carvalho said. “He knows when he can make jokes with his friends and he knows when to be a leader. He is almost that extra coach. You don’t coach that. That comes with who he is. He takes on that role. He took it on by himself and he knows when to push the team and he knows when they can relax a little bit and have a good time. Not every kid has that knack.”
At the team’s recent summer camp, Carvalho told his boys that their legacy for 2019 is still to be written.
“When you leave here (or when the season ends), what do you leave behind?” he asked them.
For Failauga, it’s all about team. He spoke in front of the rest of the squad at camp and told the players that they are what matters more than any record ever could.
“It was a powerful message,” Carvalho said. “He doesn’t worry about the record and that stuff. He doesn’t think about it. But he is consistently asked about it in the media. He wants to go out and do the best he can for his team and his community and his family. When you have that kind of mind-set, success will take care of itself.
On the field, Failauga has been known to take matters into his own (and his offensive line’s) hands.
“One time, the year we won the D-II OIA championship, we played Roosevelt in the semifinals,” Carvalho said. “It was very close in the first half and the second half we made adjustments. We felt we could run a particular play. It was give the ball to Alfred and I forget which play. It worked for 8 yards and then 8 yards again. When I watched the video the next day, I didn’t realize how much we called it. We ran the same play 15 to 20 times and ended up scoring. That was an instance he put it on his shoulders. Coming off the field, he reminded me, ‘Coach, I’m human you know.’ We were going fast, too, and I could see that certain players on the opposing team were dead tired. We didn’t want to give them time to get up. The sideline was intense. We were hurrying them up to get to the line.”
When players pile up chunks and chunks of yards, Division I offers often come. That’s not the case for the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Failauga.
“I know Oregon is interested in him and I’m hoping this year he gets an official offer from someone,” the coach said. “If anything, if he gets the record, if it does any good, maybe he gets a scholarship.”
When a college scout came to watch Waipahu linebacker Fiva Tulafale at practice, it occurred to Carvalho that the visitor was not interested in who Carvalho calls the best running back in the state.
“He didn’t fit their system is what I suspect, and I understand that,” the coach said.
But is Failauga D-I worthy?
“I do (think he is),” Carvalho said. “I see him squatting five plates. That’s 450 pounds plus the 45-pound bar. He’s only 185.”