Sean McFadden will be jawing. And Roy Fuchigami will certainly send words back.
“Oh yeah,” Fuchigami said. “Those are the funnest parts.”
The opposing strong safeties face each other for the third time when McFadden’s Pacific Lutheran University football team plays host to rival University of Puget Sound at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
The words won’t be in spite or anger. The former Punahou School teammates traveled 3,000 miles from Hawaii where they won a high school state championship together and now, coincidentally, attend rival schools that are less than 10 miles apart.
“I would just be yelling at him and everyone on my team is like, ‘What are these guys talking to each other for? Shouldn’t they hate each other?’ ” said McFadden, who leads the Lutes with three interceptions and is second in tackles (25).
“When we play UPS, it’s more like, ‘I can’t wait to see Roy,’ and seeing all the other Hawaii guys when they played there. It’s nice to see familiar faces.”
They came to their respective Pierce County universities from Punahou in Honolulu. Others who have roamed those halls include AOL co-founder Steve Case; eBay founder Pierre Omidyar; LPGA Tour golfer Michelle Wie; and former New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams running back Mosi Tatupu (the father of former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu).
Oh, and so did President Barack Obama.
But of all the lawmakers, Olympians and business titans to attend the school, the only football state championship Punahou has won came when McFadden and Fuchigami were integral parts in 2009. Granted, they played on the same defense with former Heisman Trophy finalist and current San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o.
“It’s pretty dang cool to see that even though there have been some really good players and teams to go through there, we were the only team to do that. It’s like ‘Really?’” McFadden said. “It’s weird to think about, but it’s awesome because we set that gold standard for the rest of the teams coming in.”
Punahou coach Kale Ane remembers McFadden and Fuchigami for their near- opposite personalities.
“Sean is a great athlete, but wasn’t always the hardest worker or the most focused young man,” said Ane, who played seven seasons in the NFL between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. “The assistant coach might be talking to him and he might be looking somewhere else, seeming like he isn’t paying attention. Then you ask him a question and he’d know the answer, which was even more frustrating.
“As he got older he got more focused and had a tremendous senior year as one of our leaders.”
Fuchigami was, and still is, more reserved.
“Roy was very quiet, very ninja,” Ane said. “Just did his work, never opened his mouth, very ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir.’ Just a very physically and mentally tough guy.”
Their championship run wasn’t short of distractions or personality conflicts.
“They are kids – they are going to get distracted,” Ane said. “This is also the most academic school in Hawaii, so there are a lot of other things going on in their lives. Then you add the circus of Manti getting recruited and that filtered down to everybody else.”
That’s why both Fuchigami and McFadden now embrace their environments at PLU and UPS, even if they don’t play their games on a tropical island or in 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium anymore.
What bothers them most about their time at Punahou was that they took winning, and all the expectations surrounding the team with top-ranked recruit Te’o, too seriously. That’s why their goals now are to enjoy their opportunities to play football.
The first time they played against each other in college was during the 2010 season. PLU won, 31-28, on a last-second field goal.
And afterward? McFadden stayed on the rival campus to hang out with Fuchigami and some other Punahou alumni playing for the Loggers.
“We aren’t playing (the Apple Cup). It’s not like we are out there to kill each other,” McFadden said. “Instead, I get to go over to these guys’ houses where there is so much Hawaiian food that it’s like being back there. … If you are playing (NCAA Division III) and not having fun, then you aren’t playing for the right reason.”
“We are going to try our best against each other,” Fuchigami said, “but in the end we will always be friends.”
PUGET SOUND (1-5 overall, 0-3 NWC) at No. 16 PACIFIC LUTHERAN (6-1, 3-1)
12:30 p.m., Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
The coaches: Jeff Thomas is in his fourth season at UPS (3-30 record). Scott Westering is in his 10th season at PLU (53-36).
The series: The Loggers lead the overall series, 44-38-5. The Lutes have won the past seven meetings (24 of the past 25 games), including a 41-14 victory in 2012 at Baker Stadium in Tacoma. The Loggers’ last win vs. PLU was 23-13 at Sparks Stadium in 2005.
Statistical leaders: For UPS — QB Braden Foley (136-224, 1,439 yards, 15 TDs), RB Kupono Park (86 carries, 238 yards, two TDs), WR Kevin Miller (43 catches, 405 yards, four TDs) and DB Jacob Wuesthoff (59 tackles). For PLU — QB Dalton Ritchey (122-215, 1,542 yards, 10 TDs), RB Niko Madison (97 carries, 596 yards, five TDs), WR Kyle Warner (40 catches, 682 yards, six TDs) and LB Jordan Patterson (54 tackles).
What to watch: Can Foley and Ritchey take care of the football? The two quarterbacks have combined for 28 turnovers — 24 of them being interceptions — and they’ve come in bunches during the season. But if you judge a signal caller by his last outing, then Ritchey is coming off his best effort at Willamette (158 rushing yards, 196 passing yards, four total TDs, one INT) while Foley is coming off arguably his poorest against Whitworth (213 passing yards, two total TDs, five turnovers). … How will the Loggers defend all of PLU’s offensive playmakers? The simple answer is that UPS cannot stick to just one approach, so expect a lot of different looks both in bringing pressure and pass coverage. The Loggers did blitz more than usual last week, and registered five sacks, which really shows they trust the likes of cornerbacks Connor Savage, Nasser Abdelrasul and Joe Cerne more in one-on-one situations. If that happens, expect Savage to defend Warner the most. … Who will be the Lutes’ difference maker? With incumbent starter Brandon James (knee) still sidelined indefinitely, Madison has taken the starting tailback job and run with it. He is both a workhorse and home-run threat — and the Northwest Conference’s leading rusher. On talent alone, the Tahoma product might be the most talented running back the Lutes have had since Aaron Binger (2000-03). He likely will get plenty of touches against a UPS run defense that gives up 188.7 yards per game.
What’s at stake: For stretches, UPS has played the Lutes tough in the Thomas era — especially in 2010 when the Loggers lost a heartbreaker, 31-28. But after the raw emotion of the rivalry game settles down, PLU usually finds its traction. The Lutes are in a great position to return to the NCAA Division III playoffs, and don’t want to see that even slightly spoiled Saturday.
TNT pick: PLU, 40-20.