By Wes Nakama
In a “Kalihi Bowl” showdown played Saturday night at Kaiser Stadium, Farrington rolled past neighborhood rival Damien, 48-26, in First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Division I State Championships first-round action.
The Governors used four interceptions — including a 98-yard pick-six — and an 82-yard kick return for another score in improving to 7-3 and advancing to next Saturday’s road semifinal versus Waipahu. That game will be a rematch of last week’s OIA DI championship game won by Waipahu.
Damien’s season ends at 8-4 after making its first state tournament appearance since 2016.
“I’m happy with the win, (but) there’s a lot of things we gotta fix,” Farrington coach Daniel Sanchez said. “We just gotta do better, we have a big game next week. We gotta go face those guys again, it’s gonna be a tough one so this whole week we’ll make the corrections and hopefully we’ll do better than we did the last time.”
The Govs earned the rematch largely via big plays on defense and special teams.
The Monarchs struck first on the game’s opening drive, which covered 60 yards in just five plays, capped by Alani Tuifua’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Dayton Savea, with Samuel Kawakami’s extra point giving Damien a quick 7-0 lead. Maka Maiava’s interception on the ensuing series gave the Monarchs the ball back, and they advanced to the Farrington 20-yard line.
But Tuifua’s throw to the front left corner of end zone stalled in the brisk wind and was intercepted at the 2 by defensive back Everest Rodriguez, who promptly zig-zagged his way to the right sideline before sprinting all the way to the end zone for the longest pick-six in state tournament history. The extra point attempt was wide, leaving the score at 7-6.
Damien responded quickly, with an eight-play, 75-yard drive culminating in Tuifua’s 27-yard TD pass to Savea, and Kawakami’s extra point pushed the lead to 14-6 with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter. But the Governors got another huge defensive play three minutes into the second, when Tuifua took a hard sack and lost the ball, with defensive lineman Heimana Richmond scooping it up and running it in from 14 yards out for a stunning touchdown. Sitani Mikaele ran in the two-point conversion to tie it up at 14-14.
Farrington then took the lead for good with quarterback MJ Moreno’s 28-yard scoring pass to Chansen Smith capping an eight-play, 62-yard drive, with Mikaele again running in the two-point conversion to put the Govs ahead, 22-14, with 1:17 left in the half.
Then on the opening kickoff of the second half, Talamoa caught it at his own 18, darted his way upfield and scampered 82 yards for a quick and spectacular score. The extra point was blocked, but Farrington all of a sudden led, 28-14.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, defensive back Willis Willy picked off a Tuifua downfield pass, setting up an eight-play, 65-yard TD drive capped by Ikaika Kua’ano-Lacno’s 14-yard run to paydirt. The two-point conversion run attempt failed, leaving the score at 34-14 about midway through the third quarter.
Rodriguez then snared his second interception, setting up Moreno’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Talamoa with 43.9 seconds remaining in the third which extended the lead to 41-14.
The Monarchs finally closed the gap to 41-20 after Tuifua’s 28-yard TD pass to running back Sylas Alaimalo three minutes into the fourth quarter, but Farrington quickly responded just three plays later with Talamoa’s 53-yard scoring run and then his own PAT.
Damien cut it to 48-26 after recovering a fumble at the Governors’ 10-yard line, on Tuifua’s 4-yard pass to Savea three plays later with 4:42 left. But it was too little, too late. Tuifua, a sophomore, finished with 21 completions in 42 attempts, for 262 yards and four touchdowns, but he also was intercepted four times.
“They were able to get into their zones, get into their drops quickly,” Damien coach Bones Tuitele said of the Govs’ secondary. “I think it was a growing thing for (Tuifua), he’s still young … But other than that, hat’s off to Farrington, they played a helluva game.”
Mikaele finished with 205 yards on 29 carries, helping to eat some clock and keep the Monarchs’ offense off the field.
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