(Here’s an extended version of this morning’s preview of the Farrington-Kailua game. I wrote a little too long for the print version, but here’s the story with extras.)
For the team in maroon, it’s all about poundage at the line of scrimmage.
Farrington is off to a scintillating start and Tyler Taumua is having one of the best junior seasons of any running back in recent memory.
For the team in blue, things just might be turning around. When the Kailua Surfriders prepared for the football season, optimism was high. Quarterback Kahaku Iaea was back for his junior year, one year removed from a 16-touchdown, 2,131-yard performance. A veteran offensive line would be the anchor. Factor in some talented transfers from Kaiser, and the Surfriders were on the verge of a surge to the elite level of prep football.
Instead, Kailua (1-3) is still finding its way, and Farrington stands next in line. The teams battle tonight at Roosevelt’s Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
“This is another huge test for us,” Kailua coach Gary Rosolowich said. “We’ve had turnovers offensively. Our pass protection hasn’t been what it was at this point last year, so we hope we’ve fixed that.”
The opportunity to improve, qualify for the playoffs and reach potential is there for Kailua and a number of young teams in the Oahu Interscholastic Association this year. Not so long ago, Leilehua went 3-3 in the regular season, then went on to win the state crown?
For Kailua, which is 1-1 in league play, the timing is still better than good in a year when most powerhouse teams are rebuilding with youthful new players. There are just a few exceptions. Among them is Farrington, which is off to a 2-0 start in OIA Red play, 4-0 overall, and a No. 2 ranking in the Star-Advertiser Top 10.
While the offense improves week by week, a defense led by linemen John Vave (6-4, 280), Joe Pelesasa (6-0, 251) and Jeremiah Taleni (6-0, 290) has held down the fort.
“We’ve played a very tough schedule and our defense has played very well,” Rosolowich said. “The key guys have been our D-line. They have played tremendously.”
The Governors brought back a physically dominant offensive line of their own: the “Bamboolas.” They have paved the way for what could become a record-breaking season for running back Tyler Taumua.
Knocked out for most of last season by injury, Taumua is having an epic performance for an offense with a first-year starter at quarterback. The numbers tell the story:
>> 129 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against Kamehameha
>> 216 yards and three touchdowns on 25 attempts against ‘Iolani
>> 228 yards, three touchdowns on 12 carries against Kaiser
>> 215 yards, three touchdowns on 23 attempts against Castle
With 788 rushing yards, the junior is averaging 197 per game. At this rate,Taumua would surpass all of last year’s top rushing performances statewide before the OIA playoffs.
Govs coach Randall Okimoto, one of the school’s greatest running backs ever, has kept Taumua’s workload relatively light. Even with the 79 carries in four games, the ball has been distributed to several other backs in Farrington’s smashmouth attack out of a West Coast set.
“He probably could handle more carries, but the games we were in, the game was in hand,” Okimoto said. “I know thinking back to last year, when he came up as a sophomore, I thought he could possibly be one of the best backs in Farrington history. He’d have three years under his belt, all those yards under his belt. But he got hurt.”
Okimoto is a fan.
“His cutback ability and his vision, I’ve seen him hurdle two guys in the past game. To be able to do that at top speed, you have to be able see that,” Okimoto added. “It brought be back to some good memories back when we were playing.”
In the win over Castle, Tavale Masalosalo, Jacky Anakalea, Abraham Silva and Setefano Lavatai combined for 35 carries and 198 yards.
The blueprint for Farrington’s success over the years has remained consistent: power football. It works well with a two-fold dividend: accentuating the district’s wealth of athletic, powerful athletes, and grinding out the clock. That’s a winning recipe against passing teams that hit a snag in the game plan.
The Govs have a solid track record this fall against opposing passers. In fact, no team has had success by air or ground so far.
>> Kamehameha: passing 18-33-1-147; rushing 28 attempts, 67 yards
>> Iolani: passing 11-30-1-71; rushing 15 carries, 84 yards
>> Kaiser: passing 7-23-1-57; rushing 19 carries, 29 yards
>> Castle: passing 13-37-4-172; rushing nine carries, minus-31 yards
That comes out to 112 passing yards per game on a combined 49-for-113 by opposing quarterbacks, with seven interceptions. Farrington’s foes have rushed for 37.3 yards per game.
The bottom line number: 41 points allowed, or 10.3 per game.
“We’re right where we want to be. There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Okimoto said. “Our seniors have been our leaders.”
Defensive back Daniel Prescott, linebacker Semo Sila and lineman Jarome Faamata have steadied a relatively inexperienced group.
Meanwhile, the Surfriders are coming off a lopsided win over Roosevelt. Iaea, who worked hard in the offseason to melt off 25 pounds and is now at 215, started strong. He passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns (35-for-51) against Kealakehe. Then came a long day against Punahou (14-for-38, 193 yards, three picks) and arguably the toughest defense in the state, Kahuku (19-for-35, 140 yards, two picks).
Kailua’s offense gained momentum last week against Roosevelt. Jarrin Young rushed for 106 yards. Kila Zuttermeister and Kaliko Kaimana hauled in touchdown passes, and Iaea finished with two touchdown tosses.
All of that potential, though, may not be realized if Farrington’s offense grinds out long, time-consuming drives.
Extra points: Last year’s top rushers were Chester Su‘a of Kaimuki (1,625 yards, 20 touchdowns), Jesse Carney of Kalaheo (1,463 yards, 16 touchdowns), Ikaika Gante of Anuenue (1,406 yards, 12 touchdowns), Victor Moananu of Waipahu (1,406 yards, 14 touchdowns), Zachary Payomo of Mililani (1,283 yards, 12 touchdowns), Aofaga Wily of Kahuku (1,175 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Solomon Dixon of McKinley (1,165 yards, 12 touchdowns). All but Wily graduated.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser