It isn’t quite 3 o’clock yet on this Thursday afternoon, but the Farrington Governors are on the field.
It’s a row and another row and another. Practice begins this way every day. The Governors don’t just shout it out. They sing their alma mater. They use finesse. They enunciate every word of a song burned deep into their memory banks, standing under a hot sun, wearing their shoulder pads, shorts and cleats. The helmets go on after the song, which is short and sweet.
The vibe on campus has toned down since a 22-6 win over Maui in the opening round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Championships. The team’s focus and drive are constant.
“There was a lot of hype (on campus) last week, so thankfully it’s calmed down a lot this week,” linebacker Bryce Tatupu-Leopoldo said. “It’s all about business now.”
Going up against OIA champion Mililani (11-0) presents problems for all defenses. When Farrington (9-2) met the Trojans during the regular season, the game was fairly close for almost a half. Mililani managed to punch in five TDs against a normally resilient Govs defense for a 34-14 halftime lead. Farrington, playing without quarterback Montana Liana in the second half (ejection), eventually lost 41-14.
Dealing with Trojans’ quarterback McKenzie Milton is a big task.
“He’s a great athlete. He has great coaches, as well. To be honest, it’s very hard with a guy who can run the ball, pass the ball, do all the things a college coach wants out of a quarterback,” Tatupu-Leopoldo said.
And yet, Kahuku did a commendable job against Mililani in the OIA final. Mililani opted to play more ball-control offense than its usual hurry-up, pinball-machine pace, but the Red Raiders’ performance in a 20-7 loss gave Farrington a little more hope.
“Kahuku kind of showed us the way. Hopefully, we can learn from what they did, be as physical as them, maybe more physical,” Tatupu-Leopoldo said.
Having a healthy secondary helps against Mililani’s jet-quick receivers.
“It’s good to have people who have experience, who have played against them before is big. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stop their run or their pass. The coverage is very important against Milton,” Tatupu-Leopoldo said. “It’s huge. I hope the coverage and the secondary come up big in this game and we get the win.”
Farrington’s offense will benefit in this rematch of sorts with Liana back in the saddle at quarterback. Preparing for a Mililani defense that excels at the pass rush and takeaways — they have 22 interceptions this season — isn’t simple. The Govs, like every team still playing this late in the season, are trying to replicate what Mililani does defensively during practice.
“It’s hard because different people play different positions,” tackle Farao Maileoi said. “We’re bringing in ‘backers to play (defensive) end because they’re fast. We’re trying to give our offense different looks.”
Farrington might have a different look of its own. Running back/returner Ranan Mamiya, who suffered a knee injury in the win over Maui, remains questionable for Saturday’s game. Coach Randall Okimoto said it’ll be a game-day decision.