POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 10, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:41 a.m. HST, Nov 10, 2011
They’ve gone down this road before, but perhaps never with so much expectation.
The Farrington Governors saw a perfect season — and a rare No. 1 ranking — slip away with a loss to Kahuku.
The good news is the Govs play in the Oahu Interscholastic Association, where three Red Conference teams get state-tournament berths.
Sure enough, almost on schedule, Farrington will pack up for a trip to Maui on Friday. The Govs, ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10, will meet up with the Baldwin Bears at War Memorial Stadium in the Division I opening round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships.
Four years ago, the Governors went this route and met a prolific passing attack led by Jordan Helle. At that time, Baldwin was ranked No. 2 in the state and Farrington was seventh. The Bears won 26-14 and advanced to the semifinals, where they lost to Leilehua.
Two years ago, Farrington traveled to the Big Island and trounced Honokaa 48-16. Farrington then lost in overtime to Kahuku in the semifinals. Honokaa, a smaller school, moved down to Division II after that season.
This year’s Governors (10-1) feature a smashmouth ground game with a little more girth up front and a little more savvy in the backfield.
Baldwin’s run-and-shoot ways of years past have been more run than shoot lately, but the Bears are all about defense this year.
On paper: If the nuances of Baldwin’s offense and defense are a mystery to OIA fans, the opposite is true of Farrington, which has been on statewide TV often enough to showcase a stellar defense and the state’s leading rusher.
2010: Did not qualify
2009: Lost to Kahuku in semifinals
2008: Lost to Punahou in semifinals
2007: Lost to Baldwin in first round
2010: Lost to Leilehua in first round
2009: Lost to Leilehua in first round
2008: Lost to Leilehua in first round
2007: Lost to Leilehua in semifinals
Tyler Taumua has racked up 1,624 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 games. At 8.1 yards per carry, only twice has the junior been limited to fewer than 100 yards. The first came against Moanalua (35 yards in an injury-shortened stint), the second (19 yards on 11 carries) last Friday in the 23-0 loss to Kahuku.
Baldwin (8-1) has been untested in Maui Interscholastic League play since a nonconference loss to Edison (Calif.). In the MIL, the Bears allowed double-digit points just once, a 33-22 win over Kamehameha-Maui. As a unit, the Bears surrender just 59 rushing yards per game.
Baldwin’s offense has been heavily dependent on quarterback Keelan Ewaliko, who passed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for 811 yards and 12 touchdowns, second only to teammate Vetekina Malafu (828 yards, 12 touchdowns).
“We’re young up front and the receiving corps is young, but they’ve all jelled together. Whatever the defense gives us, we’ll take,” coach A.J. Roloos said. “Keelan has gotten stronger from last year. He’s added about 10 or 15 pounds. He’s gotten faster and his arm strength is unbelievable. He does his reads correctly and we run the ball a lot since we’ve got him and Vetekina in the backfield.”
The Bears mix their traditional shotgun with pistol sets.
“I don’t think we took a snap under center all year,” Roloos added.
Farrington coach Randall Okimoto remembers the past, but is confident about facing another four-wide offense.
“Baldwin is always competitive. They’re the team to beat from Maui. They run run-and-shoot stuff, so it’s nothing we haven’t played against,” he said, noting a playoff win over Campbell and its run-and-shoot offense.
After years of facing pass-happy Leilehua in the postseason, the Bears are almost relieved to face an old-school offense.
“The good thing is we’re facing a good Farrington team that’s heavy on the run,” Roloos said. “Our defense, our core is our line and our linebackers. If you’re rushing, you’re rushing into the teeth of our defense.”
Pasoni Tasini (6 feet 4, 245 pounds) and Vili Tolutau (5-10, 190) anchor the defensive line.
“Most teams run away from Pasoni because he’s strong, he’s quick. He’s just an unreal athlete,” Roloos said. “Farrington’s going to do what they’re going to do and run, I would say, 80 percent of the time. That’s their offense. We’ll prepare for their passing game, too, but they have the No. 1 running back in the state.”
Okimoto isn’t about to change gears.
“We played a top defense in Kahuku, so I don’t think anyone’s got a tougher defense,” he said.
The skinny: The Bears aren’t about to shy away from a physical battle in the trenches. When they beat Farrington in the ’07 state tournament, it was Roloos’ first swing through the postseason as a head coach. Whether they can contain Farrington’s play-action game, featuring receiver Toma Barrett, is a key question.
In Baldwin’s win over Kamehameha-Maui, Warriors wide receiver Daylan Machado struck early for an 80-yard touchdown catch.
The Bears have a history of standing up to smashmouth offenses from Oahu, but with so much time since they last met a physically equal front, it might take some time to get used to the brutality of Farrington’s offensive line, the “Bamboolas.”
Conversely, the Governors haven’t seen a lot of mobile, experienced quarterbacks with numbers like Ewaliko’s (14 touchdown passes, only six picks).
Farrington linebacker Semo Sila will be on the lookout for Ewaliko’s trickery, no doubt.
X factor: Farrington racked up 132 yards in penalties in the loss to Kahuku, and quarterback Travis Tamatua finished the game with nine consecutive incompletions, including two picks.
Establishing the ground game is key for the Govs, and if they force Baldwin into putting eight men in the box, Barrett and Tamatua could have career-best games.