Waipahu’s Alfred Failauga turned opportunity as a freshman into record-breaking career

Waipahu's Alfred Failauga rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown against Leilehua to set the state's career rushing record earlier this season. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

The celebration was somewhat subdued, but the achievement remained undeniable.

On the way to the bus following a 23-13 loss at Leilehua, Waipahu’s players and coaches stopped for a moment to commemorate senior running back Alfred Failauga becoming the state’s all-time leading rusher. After a photo opportunity with a banner printed for the occasion, the Marauders sang happy birthday to Failauga after his 186-yard performance pushed him past former Mililani standout Vavae Malepeai for the top spot on the rushing chart.

“I thank the man above for this wonderful opportunity. … I want to thank the linemen for blocking for me, without them I wouldn’t be the guy standing here today,” Failauga said. “To be No. 1 feels really great. … We lost but we’re just going to get back together and we’re going to look for our mistakes and we’re going to get back out there and show people what we can do.”

Failauga raised his career total to 4,681 yards and he has 762 in three games this season heading into next week’s game against Damien.

“No more person deserving than him, he’s just a good person,” Waipahu coach Bryson Carvalho said. “His character is amazing, he has so much integrity and respect and he’s respected by all of his teammates and the youth in the community.

“Having a record, a lot of kids look up to him and want to be like him. But even more so the message he gives just by his daily work I think speaks miles of how much of an amazing individual he is.”

Failauga arrived at Hugh Yoshida Stadium 54 yards shy of Malepeai’s mark set in 2015 and he made the record his on his eighth carry of the night with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter.

A season after Malepeai finished his high school career, Failauga began his march to the record as a freshman in 2016. He topped the 100-yard mark in each of his last six games in 2016 and has continued to carry the load into his senior season, averaging just over 31 carries through three games.

Failauga’s endurance and tenacity were evident to Carvalho before the freshman suited up for his first practice with the Marauders.

In reflecting on the record after Friday’s game, Carvalho recalled seeing Failauga “covered head to toe in dirt” as he flipped tires around the school’s then-dirt track during “hell week” prior to his freshman year. When the youngster finished that task, it was on to running the bleachers, then hills, as part of the week devised to test the will of prospective players.

“If they last, they really want to be here,” Carvalho said, “and he was a guy that really wanted to be there.

“From that point to the moment he put on pads for the first time, he was so grateful that he was given an opportunity even though he came out late. … He was so grateful and he wanted to prove himself and he’s continued to have that mind-set and it’s just inspired so much of his teammates throughout the years. … He was the youngest guy on the team four years ago and guys were looking up to him.”

Failauga continued to produce on Friday, although the Marauders, the reigning Division I OIA and state champions, struggled to sustain drives against Leilehua. Aside from Failauga’s yardage total, the Waipahu offense was pushed back for minus-16 yards as Leilehua’s defense came up with 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage as quarterback Cody Marques found himself on the run much of the night.

Failauga had a 26-yard run in the first quarter on his way to the record and ended his night with a 22-yard score with 50 seconds left in the game, becoming the first player to score against Leilehua’s defense this season.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, we have to win the battle up front,” Carvalho said. “We were able to get a few runs here and there, but as far as throwing the ball, absolutely none. They dominated us in the trenches and we have to make sure we get better at that.

“I’m one that I don’t mind losing because I think we learn a lot from losing. I think we lost a few games last year and we learned a heck of a lot and we ended up sprouting in October and November. As long as we learn something from this and get better from it we’ll be fine.”


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