Challen Faamatau has been taking handoffs from Farrington varsity quarterbacks and looking for daylight for three years now.
At times, Faamatau finds that daylight to put the hurt on opponents. At other times, he mixes it up inside the pile searching for just a little space — and usually succeeding for at least a few yards.
He did both of those things again on Monday night in a 19-6 victory over Leilehua. It was a big win for the sixth-ranked Governors, who were down by a point, 7-6, at the half.
The fix? Well, don’t stop giving it to Faamatau and some other sturdy running backs. Faamatau gained 172 yards on a whopping 30 carries and another 35 yards on four catches.
He’s been doing this kind of work since his sophomore year, when he was a second dangerous option in the backfield along with the speed-burning Ranan Mamiya.
At times that 2014 season, it was difficult to tell who had the ball, since both players’ jersey numerals ended in ‘3.’ Mamiya wore No. 23 and Faamatau wore (and still wears) No. 13. The stats were close enough. Mamiya, the senior, rushed for 1,246 yards and 16 TDs, and Faamatau, the sophomore, ran for 798 and 10 TDs.
As a junior last season, Faamatau rushed for 1,289 yards and 13 TDs, and this year he’s off to another fast start with 385 yards rushing and four TDs in four games.
Against Leilehua, the Mules (1-4, 1-3 Oahu Interscholastic Association Red) took a 7-0 lead with 3:52 before the halftime break.
Faamatau had a huge hand in his team’s first TD. First, he returned the kickoff 45 yards and then he caught two passes for 11 yards each and another pass for nine yards to set up Freedom Alualu‘s 14-yard TD run.
On the go-ahead drive, Faamatau caught one pass and carried the ball five times before punching home what turned out to be the winning TD from 1-yard out.
The senior, who is 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, was also a major part of Farrington’s third scoring drive, which finally put the Mules away. This time, he rushed five times, including one gain of 25 and another of 19, before TJ Tautolo went in to the end zone on a 4-yard run.
Nine Farrington ball carriers combined for 332 rushing yards, and two of them — Alualu and Blessing Umaga — also threw some heavy-duty blocks for Faamatau from the fullback position.
So, here you have a Leilehua team that can’t get any sort of break on the schedule (having lost to No. 1 Kahuku, No. 2 Punahou, No. 5 Kapolei and No. 6 Farrington and preparing to play against former Top 10 team Kailua and No. 8 Mililani) playing super tough against the Govs. But they just didn’t have an answer for Faamatau.
“He’s a great playmaker,” wrote Mules head coach Nolan Tokuda via text message. “A one-man wrecking crew. The system and unselfishness of his teammates allow him to be successful as well as Governor Nation to be successful. What a player to get on your roster at the next level!
“He has 76.9 percent of their rush attempts, and total offensive plays he touches the ball 63.1 percent of the time. That’s Playstation numbers … 106 out of 168 plays.”
So, how, indeed, did Tokuda come up with those numbers? He credited Leilehua defensive coordinator Mark Kurisu.
“He (Kurisu) studies and breaks down video better than any computer, in my opinion. And he is able to get the players to understand tendencies and keys.”
Farrington (3-1, 3-1 OIA Red) is at Castle for a Friday night game. After that the Govs host Nanakuli at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium before visiting Kapolei to end the regular season.
The Govs are in an all-out OIA Red war. Kapolei and Mililani are also 3-1 and Kailua is 2-1.
The top two finishers are guaranteed a spot into the OIA D-I quarterfinals, and getting to the quarterfinals also clinches a state berth, either in the new Open division or in D-I, depending on how a team does in the quarters. A win means Open. A loss means D-I.