TAFUNA RECORDS ITS 2ND UNDEFEATED CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
Tafuna High School dominated their opponent last Saturday in ASHSAA’s Varsity Football Championship game, where the Lions were laid to rest by the Warriors after a stunning 34 - 6 game that was haunted by heavy rains, which had both teams fumbling the ball — but it didn’t stop Tafuna from passing the ball all day long.
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TAFUNA 34 - LEONE 6
“Vicious” Vena Umu was the hardest Tafuna player to bring down Saturday morning despite the rainy weather. He opened up the game in the first quarter with a 37-yard touchdown play after Daniel Fereti handed him the draw play that Leone couldn’t manage to stop. Their two point attempt was a pass connection from Fereti out to Ryan Pa’aga to spot the Warriors with the early 8-point lead.
Not too long after that, Leone trying their best to shoot through Tafuna’s defense, were denied after a fourth and goal situation when Elama Lefiti was stopped immediately in the back field by a host of Warriors to bring out Fereti and his offensive unit to start deep in their own territory.
Tafuna drove the ball down to Leone’s 1-yard line after Fereti continuously fired out the ball to Lauina Futi and Sam Ulu, a rare situation to be seen in this type of weather, but it looked like Fereti was prepared to pass in the rain, because it helped the Warriors move the ball down field quickly.
5:21 in the second quarter, first down of the Warriors on the Lions 1 yard line and Fereti handed the ball off again to “Vicious” Umu who muscled his way into the end zone to record his second touchdown of the game. Their two point attempt was short, but they were still leading the ball game 14 - 0.
Tafuna Warriors were looking to score again just before half time when Fereti was settled comfortably in the shot gun formation, and looked to fire out another pass to Pa’aga, but this time, his pass was picked off by the Freshman star of the Lions, Folasa Vili who intercepted two of Fereti’s passes and returned them back — fortunate for the Warriors, no touchdown.
Leone’s sophomore starting quarterback Eddie Tagaleo’o moved the Lions down to the Warriors 1-yard line with Lefiti refusing to go down. Leone was able to make it into the end zone with Fagalilo Oa ramming his way through the middle for a 1-yard touchdown, Leone’s first touchdown of the game to come back and trail the Warriors 14 - 6 into half-time.
Opening up the second half of the game, 8:32 into the third quarter of the game, and Tafuna finds themselves in trouble as they were pinned deep into their own territory. First down of the Warriors on their own 9-yard line, and Fereti sent “Vicious” Umu up the middle. Determined to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage, Umu broke three tackles, paved his way through the middle of Leone’s defense, and out to the open field to record a 91 yard touchdown reception, Vena’s third touchdown of the game that had the Warriors leading 20 - 6.
Leone’s attempt to hold back the Warriors from gaining yardage on the ground, was unsuccessful when Tafuna’s offensive unit wouldn’t let down. First down of the Warriors on the Lions 28-yard line, Fereti looking to pass faked the Lions defense when he handed the ball out to Ulu who rushed right through the middle and scored his first touchdown of the game, sending the Warriors to a 20- point lead.
Tafuna still on top of their game and on focused mode were still able to move the ball with the power of their offensive linemen, it gave Fereti a lot of time to look around for open receivers, but he only hooked up with Lauina Futi with just 2 plays to spot a Tafuna first down on Leone’s 20-yard line.
Their first play there and Fereti still went with Futi, connecting on the pass to the middle for Lauina’s first touchdown of the game. Their two-point conversion was good after a quarterback keep by Fereti to send Tafuna leading 34 - 6 up to the end of the game to officially sweep out this year’s football season “undefeated” and with the championship title in hand.
Samoa News spoke to Leone Lions Head Coach Arona Samoa after the game.
“Tafuna had a better angle of us from the beginning all the way to the end. We came up short on the running game and passing game and I think that was one of the factors that we weren’t able to put out today.”
He added, “like I said from the beginning, the team that makes the least mistakes will win this game, and unfortunately Tafuna was the one who came out on top and I give my hat out to the coaching staff of Tafuna… and also especially my coaches for preparing the kids, unfortunately two teams cannot win at the same time; but I want to send out a big thank you to my district, and all the Leone supporters who came out today to cheer us on, thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”
Samoa News also interviewed Tafuna’s Head Coach Okland Salave’a on an undefeated, undisputed championship season. He said, “well we have always been reminding these kids to pay attention to details and the little things during the game, and I think that helped us out with winning this ball game.”
Samoa News asked Salave’a on how he managed to pick up the pace after halftime when Leone was right behind them with a 14 - 6 trail. “We kept reminding the kids at halftime that they were missing a lot of play. A lot of mis-tackles and we were making a lot of mistakes, but I am glad that we were able to solve and correct that in the second half,” the head coach said.
Salave’a thanked Head Coach Samoa and the Lions team for playing their hearts out during the game. “Leone has always had a chance, from the play-offs to the championships they always had a chance, so I thought they had the better team, but we took advantage of our opportunities.”
He concluded, “on behalf of the team we would like to thank everybody, from the student body to the principal and the staff here at Tafuna High School for the support throughout the whole year, it’s not easy. The reason why it is crowded because there are so many people that are involved and we would like to thank everybody who came out today for the support.”