HAWAII GROWN: Punahou alum Wayne Taulapapa fueled by fumble in 2014 state final
Virginia's Wayne Taulapapa leads the team in rushing touchdowns this season. Photo by Matt Riley/UVA Media Relations.
Imagine rushing for 260 yards and three TDs in a state championship game.
Wayne Taulapapa did that in 2014.
Now imagine that you fumble in that same game, ending your team’s last chance at a comeback in an eight-point loss.
Taulapapa can check off that box, too.
But it has made him a better man.
After rushing for 3,279 yards and 52 touchdowns in three years as a Punahou starting running back, Taulapapa went on a two-year church mission in Central America. He has resurfaced as a sophomore starting running back for the Virginia Cavaliers, who are contending for a spot in the ACC championship and a bowl game.
As a sophomore at Punahou, Taulapapa and the Buffanblu won the 2013 Division I (top tier) state championship with a 28-22 win over Mililani in the final.
The two teams met again in the finale in 2014, when Taulapapa racked up those 260 yards and was subsequently named to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State first team two years in a row after making the second team as a sophomore.
“For me, personally, that (fumble) was a learning curve,” Taulapapa said via cell phone last week. “It was really huge for me. It moved me to want to be better as an overall football player. I’ve definitely gotten better and improved my form after that careless mistake.”
Punahou running back Wayne Taulapapa fumbled the ball into the end zone after he was stripped by Mililani’s Palaie Gaoteote in the closing minutes of the 2014 state final. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.
On that play, Punahou was driving with time running down and trailing 53-45.
“(Receiver) Kanawai Noa was flagged for holding on the play,” Taulapapa recalled. “I tried to jump into the end zone from 5 yards out and the ball popped out and rolled in the end zone. There was big confusion. The whole time I was thinking we still had the ball and it would be placed at the 1-yard line. But, it went out of the end zone. Our offense stayed out there. It took a while to realize that Mililani had the ball at the 1. They took a knee and the game was over. It all happened so fast. It was a really exciting game.”
Taulapapa, who has rushed for 362 yards and nine touchdowns for Virginia (6-3), is the subject of a feature story in today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Virginia running back Wayne Taulapapa carried the ball against Pittsburgh. Photo by Matt Riley/UVA Media Relations.