Farrington makes point vs. Kahuku
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM Farrington's Setefano Lavatai celebrated on Saturday.
They bled maroon long enough.
The Farrington Governors ended years of frustration, edging No. 1 Kahuku 14-13 on Saturday before a standing-room-only crowd of about 4,000 at Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium.
The No. 2 Governors surged ahead of Kahuku in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East standings. Farrington is now 5-0 (7-0 overall) with one regular-season game remaining. Kahuku dropped to 4-1 (6-1 overall).
More important than the league title chase, though, was the years of losses to Kahuku despite some extremely close battles between the East side’s powerhouse programs. Kahuku had won 16 of the past 17 meetings, including the past 12.
Farrington’s fans erupted in glee when the Govs finally put the game out of reach when Setefano Lavatai picked off Viliami Livai’s pass in the final 20 seconds. It set Farrington’s fans into euphoria, a raucous, ecstatic release of emotion that didn’t end for minutes. Long after the final seconds ticked off, Governor fans were honking and chanting their way back to Kalihi.
It was as if statehood had been announced all over again.
"I feel good. It’s been awhile since we beat Kahuku," Farrington coach Randall Okimoto said. "These kids love being with each other, so I’m happy for them."
With talk of the game moving to another venue to accommodate the crowd, the Govs were happy to stay at their adopted home field.
"That’s why we wanted it here at Roosevelt," Okimoto said. "It’s a different environment for (Kahuku). When we go to Kahuku, that’s the kind of environment it is. We just wanted to have them experience that. They’re such a good team, we needed any kind of edge we could get."
Farrington’s ability to stick to its ground game, led by the "Bamboolas" up front and Tyler Taumua (100 yards on 24 attempts), was not a surprise. With Kahuku stacking the box, the Govs caught Kahuku’s talented secondary off guard several times when quarterback Travis Tamapua connected with receiver Toma Barrett, who collected four passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Farrington finished with 295 total yards of offense, including 182 on the ground (41 carries). Kahuku rushed for 150 yards on 35 attempts, but threw three interceptions and had just 219 total yards against Farrington’s physical defense. Okimoto credited his defense and key role players such as fullback Tavale Masalosalo.
"I thought our fullback did a good job, stepping up when they were keying on Tyler, and Tyler came up big when he had to in that third quarter. We stressed that third quarter. Our big mistake in 2009 was not finishing in the third quarter. These guys did the exact opposite."
In ’09, Kahuku beat Farrington 16-14 during the regular season and 9-6 in overtime at the state tournament. Winning last night didn’t surprise Okimoto, but stumbling in the final moments triggered some bad memories.
"I didn’t expect all those things to come to pass. You know it’s going to be close. We fumble the ball, our defense ends it with a turnover," he said.
Taumua withstood the brunt of an eight-man Kahuku front all night. The junior now has 1,252 rushing yards in seven games to lead the state.
"It feels good to have a victory," he said. "Kahuku is aggressive; they know how to stop runs. We stayed with our game plan and it worked. We’ve been working more on our passing game this week."
The Red Raiders, who had won 16 games in a row going back to the start of last season, scored on a 2-yard bootleg run by backup quarterback Kawehena Johnson with 5:36 to go. That capped a decisive drive that featured running back Aofaga Wily, who finished with 136 yards on 24 carries.
However, the PAT snap sailed too high and hard for holder Spencer Nagy — nearly duplicating a botched field-goal attempt early in the game — and Kahuku squandered the opportunity to tie the game. Farrington had a narrow 14-13 lead, but Kahuku still had more chances.
The Red Raiders got the ball back with 2:19 left at their 46-yard line, but Livai’s fourth-and-1 pass to Bronson Beatty near the sideline fell incomplete.
The Governors were in position to seal the win, but Taumua fumbled at the end of a 23-yard pickup.
That gave Kahuku new life with 1:20 left.
Farrington’s defense rose to the challenge. Defensive tackle Shaikyla Manuo-Timu sacked Livai on first down, and two plays later Lavatai came up with his pick over the middle. It was the third, and most timely, interception of the night for the Governors, who ran out the final seconds.
It was a huge night for Lavatai, who was consistently challenged by the Red Raiders.
"It was a defensive battle. Leland (Mitchell) is our shutdown corner. I had to step up my game," said Lavatai, a 5-8, 167-pound junior. "It feels good."
Mitchell and Aisea Tavae also had interceptions for the Govs.
Beatty and Johnson had picks for Kahuku, and Beatty also recovered a fumble.
The contest began in near-90-degree heat, and neither offense got warmed up until the second half. Johnson, who starts at safety, pulled in an underthrown pass by Tamapua and returned it 92 yards for the only touchdown of the first half, just 58 seconds before intermission.
Lavatai, who was a key factor on kick returns, had a 40-yard return to start the second half, and the Govs drove the remaining 50 yards to the end zone. Masalosalo’s 1-yard burst tied the game at 7-all with 7:13 to go in the third quarter.
The Govs scored again on their next series, driving 74 yards in nine plays. Tamapua completed three passes in a row to finish the march, including a 28-yard strike to Barrett on a post pattern. Keanu Foki’s PAT kick sailed through the uprights for what proved to be a crucial point and a 14-7 lead with 11:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Kahuku answered with the next possession, going 62 yards in 13 plays, scoring on Johnson’s bootleg to the right. But the snap on the PAT went awry, and Farrington’s long-suffering fans soon had their first victory over Kahuku in years.
Farrington closes regular-season play at Moanalua on Friday. Kahuku will host Castle. Farrington and Kahuku have already clinched first-round byes in the OIA Red playoffs.
At Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium
Kahuku (6-1, 4-1)0706—13
Farrington (7-0, 5-0)0077—14
Kah–Kawehena Johnson 92 interception return (Kekahu Aluli kick) Far–Tavale Masalosalo 1 run (Keanu Foki kick) Far–Toma Barrett 28 pass from Travis Tamapua (Foki kick) Kah–Johnson 2 run (kick failed)
RUSHING–Kahuku: Aofaga Wily 24-136, Johnson 4-15, Mahonilai Fakatou 1-1, Viliami Livai 4-0, Sterling Moe 2-(-2). Farrington: Tyler Taumua 24-100, Tamapua 5-37, Masalosalo 9-27, Barrett 2-13, Abraham Silva 1-5. PASSING–Kahuku: Livai 3-14-2-34, Johnson 2-2-0-29, Spencer Nagy 0-1-1-0. Farrington: Tamapua 6-19-2-113. RECEIVING–Kahuku: Mekeli Fiso 2-31, Benneton Fonua 1-16, Wily 1-13, Johnson 1-3. Farrington: Barrett 4-104, Tyler Milton Liana 1-9. Francis Evagelia 1-0. JV–Kahuku 20, Farrington 14