Head coach Darren Hernandez hadn’t quite done the math yet, so when he was told his Kapolei Hurricanes won their first-ever Oahu Interscholastic Association division title, he said, “We still have to beat Nanakuli next week.”
As it turns out, mathematically speaking, Kapolei is the new OIA Red champion, even if the Hurricanes lose to the Golden Hawks next week.
And while many focus on the contributions of sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and the high-powered offense — and most deservedly so — in this title run, it’s not fair to ignore the work of the defense.
So let’s get it out there right away — the Hurricanes’ defense did not give up a single point in Saturday night’s 28-7 victory over Farrington. The Governors’ only TD came against Kapolei’s offense.
There were many big-time performances put in, especially by safeties Leonard Lee and Kekoa Kaupuiki and defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.
Let’s start with Lee, the free safety. The senior had two pickoffs, including one in the end zone late in the fourth quarter that halted a lengthy Farrington drive.
“He’s awesome,” Hernandez said about Lee. “I think he’s one of the best safeties in the state.”
Then there’s Kaupuiki, the senior strong safety who set the tone on the Governors’ first drive by making two tackles for loss. He had three tackles for loss on the night, and his biggest play came with the Hurricanes clinging to a 14-7 lead with 10:40 left in the game. Farrington was in a fourth-down situation from the Kapolei 29 and Govs quarterback Bishop Rapozo put one up to the front left corner of the end zone, where two receivers had a chance to snare it. Along came Kaupuiki to knock it away. Close call, but mission accomplished.
That’s how fragile the Hurricanes’ lead was at the time.
“Kekoa showed up,” Hernandez said. “He was a starter last year and was really skinny — 6-2 and maybe 165. He put on 20 pounds of muscle. He’s 185 and very rangy. He doesn’t get a lot of credit because Leonard Lee gets all the publicity because he makes a lot of interceptions.”
Tagovailoa-Amosa, who has 10 Division I FBS offers, was a fire-breathing dragon in the face of Farrington quarterbacks whenever they thought of fading back to pass, which wasn’t too often.
With binoculars from the press box, the exertion Tagovailoa-Amosa is giving is clearly written on his face as the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder chases those QBs and RBs from their comfort zone. On one play in particular, he chased Farrington star running back Challen Faamatau toward the sideline where both of them met up with another locomotive coming in from another angle, Kapolei linebacker Rocky Savea, in what turned out to be a 3-yard loss. If there wasn’t a big “boom” sound heard down on the field, there certainly should have been.
Tagovailoa-Amosa was in on three tackles for loss.
“Myron can run, and can play inside and outside, and we’re very proud of his play. He’s a leader,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez was quick to credit defensive coordinator Brad Hewahewa for coming up with the plan that eventually kept Farrington’s offense out of the end zone.
“Farrington had a great game plan,” Hernandez said. “They played keep away and ran the ball to keep our offense off the field. I’m proud of our defense.”
When told that Kapolei (6-1, 5-1) wrapped up at least a spot in the Division I state tournament or, with an additional win in the quarterfinals, a berth into the new Open division state tournament, Hernandez said, “Beautiful.”
All four OIA teams that get a bye in the first round of the league playoffs (the top two teams in the Red and the Blue) clinch at least a D-I state appearance.
Farrington (5-2, 5-2) is still alive for one of those first-round byes and will clinch it if Leilehua beats Mililani next week.
“Our defense did all they could do,” said Faamatau, who finished with 118 yards on a whopping 37 carries. “Our offense, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve really got to work on our red zone. We drive the ball. We make the defenses tired, but just the red zone is the place that we always go and then go three and out.”
Asked after the game if he could have carried the ball 10 more times if asked, he said, “Oh yeah, of course. My adrenaline is pumping. The coaches tell me I need to be ready for when it’s smashmouth time. I always stretch, make sure I hydrate myself, lift, make sure my muscles are good to go. I always have the energy to do what I gotta do. I couldn’t have done it without my linemen.”
Governors head coach Randall Okimoto recalls TJ Tautolo‘s 66-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter and said he “was a little bit perturbed on the sideline” when it was called back due to a penalty.
“If we don’t commit that penalty on that punt return, we’re tied 14-14, or maybe we’re up because we could go for two,” he said.
Another play could have yielded a possible tying or go-ahead touchdown when the score was still 14-7. Farrington defensive back Christian Acorda stepped in front of a Tagovailoa pass on the sideline, but dropped the ball. If he had caught it, there was a lot of daylight between him and the end zone.
“Christian Acorda is a helluva player for us,” Okimoto said.
Acorda was in on several other pass breakups in the game, and Chasen Castilliano scored the Govs’ only points with a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown. Faasisina Masalosalo, Samsen Tanuvasa and Tainano Gaulua all had a tackle for loss for Farrington. In addition, Richard Anderson made a strip of a Kapolei ball carrier to cause a fumble that teammate Stephen Eter recovered.