By Chuck Culpepper

The Washington Post

ATLANTA (11-6) vs. PHILADELPHIA (13-3)

When: 1:35 p.m. Saturday TV: Fox

Radio: KICE 94.9-FM Line: Falcons by 3

Series record: Eagles lead 18-14-1

Last meeting: Eagles beat Falcons 24-15 (2016)

Stats: Falcons — offense (8), rush (13), pass (8); defense (9), rush (9), pass (12) Eagles — offense (7), rush (3), pass (13); defense (4), rush (17), pass (1)

Outlook: Quarterback Matt Ryan has another shot at a happy homecoming. A berth in the NFC championship game is at stake Saturday when Ryan leads the Falcons into Philadelphia. Ryan, who grew up rooting for the Eagles and went to Philadelphia’s William Penn Charter School, is 1-3 at the Linc. He was 18 of 33 for 267 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Foles makes his fourth start since replacing Carson Wentz after the MVP candidate tore his ACL in Week 14. Foles has completed 56.4 percent of passes for 537 yards, five TDs, two picks and 79.5 passer rating.

Titans (10-7) at Patriots (13-3)

When: 5:15 p.m. Saturday TV: CBS

Radio: KICE 94.9-FM Line: Patriots by 131⁄2

Series record: Patriots lead 24-16-1

Last meeting: Patriots beat Titans 33-16 (2015)

Stats: Titans — offense (23), rush (15), pass (23); defense (13), rush (4), pass (25) Patriots — offense (3), rush (27), pass (1); defense (6), rush (10), pass (7)

Outlook: Two things, among many, have been consistent for the Patriots the past decade: Tom Brady at quarterback and New England in the AFC championship game. Brady will try to lead his team to its seventh straight conference title game Saturday. Tennessee has not been to a conference championship game since the 2002 season but has been invigorated coming off its first playoff win in 14 years.

— The Associated Press

Sports, that wonderful, horrible, meaningful, meaningless, inspiring, cynical, beautiful entity, just completed another wild feat. It took 2,390 miles of ocean and shrank it. It urged ­Hawaii and the United States mainland into a fresh realm of spiritual juxtaposition. It continued to redefine, according to Hawaiians, how Hawaiians perceive themselves.

Apparently, you just cannot beat that damned sports.

Last Saturday, a 24-year-old quarterback in his first NFL playoff game threw a touchdown pass to himself, commanded a wacko second-half comeback in a loud road stadium and forged a clinching-play block that deserves to prove unforgettable. On Monday, a 19-year-old quarterback entered the College Football Playoff national championship after halftime, redefined the tenor of that humongous game, became its most valuable player and threw a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass so eye-pleasing that it will prove unforgettable.

That first quarterback moves on to New England this NFL playoff weekend. That second quarterback moves on toward one of the most important annual exercises known to the nation: Alabama spring football.

Somehow, both Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans and Tua Tagovailoa of the Alabama Crimson Tide attended all-boys Saint Louis School, that rare place of which the school president, Glenn Medeiros, might say in passing, over the phone, “It actually overlooks Waikiki.”

Improbably, there is more. Five days before Mariota’s visual delights in Kansas City, another “M.M.,” McKenzie Milton, quarterbacked Central Florida to a Peach Bowl win over Auburn, which cemented UCF (13-0) as the only unbeaten team among the 129 playing top-rung college football.

Milton attended Mililani High, also on Oahu. It does not have a view of Waikiki.

Hawaii has annexed a football giddiness generally unavailable to states ranked No. 40 in population (a stat that further credits Hawaii). While Tagovailoa thrived in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, citizens told of audible bursts of cheering ringing up and down Honolulu streets. “It’s the year of the Hawaiian quarterback in America!” tweeted local sports host Kanoa Leahey.

It is heady and emotional for Hawaii and for Polynesians who breathed football in preceding eras when distance mattered more in general. The first eight days of January 2018 represent another crest, even though Saint Louis School had previously produced Timmy Chang, who passed for about 1 million yards at the University of Hawaii; Jason Gesser, who, at Washington State, shared Pacific-10 Conference offensive player of the year honors with Carson Palmer in 2002; and Jeremiah Masoli, who graced a Rose Bowl for Oregon, the school at which Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

Referring to the atmosphere at school, Medeiros said: “I would like to say it’s been completely different, but ever since Marcus is doing really well, we’ve been experiencing this for a few years, since Marcus winning the Heisman. They’re very excited, but it’s not as if it’s a situation where they’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, we’ve never been through a situation like this.’”

Tagovailoa’s surging performance, from Alabama’s 13-0 deficit to its 26-23 overtime win, “validated that this really not a fluke, it’s not an anomaly.”

National quarterbacking stardom from Saint Louis School: routine!

The school sits up on Kalaepohaku, which Medeiros called “a large hill or a mountain, one of the two” — this week, surely a mountain — and which Mariota mentioned in his Heisman speech with, “To the men of Kalaepohaku, and the Saint Louis brotherhood, thank you for teaching me to be always mindful and faithful.”

It hatched in 1846, overseen by Marianist Catholics. Its first 10 years of teaching came in the native Hawaiian language. It has 880 students, K-12. Itis 53 percent native Hawaiian, Medeiros said, plus other Polynesian students. It is on its third campus, built of adobe in 1926. It shares its mountain with Chaminade University. Its students graduate in white tuxedos. They graduate finally not with the turning of a tassel, but with the turning of a lei, red and blue, school colors of the Crusaders. Thursday was “Tie Thursday,” on which the lads wear ties.

In the second coaching stint of its venerable head coach, Cal Lee, with its quarterback coach, Vinny Passas, Saint Louis just won another state championship, and it wound up No. 5 in the MaxPreps.com national rankings. People know about it now, even if in Polynesian culture, as Sapolu said and Tanuvasa echoed, “Humility’s a big thing,” and Tagovailoa’s postgame humility coaxed just as much pleasure as his exploits.

“I don’t know how coach (Nick) Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama,” Tagovailoa said.

Well, it is 2018, a year of instant video transmission, the year of the Hawaiian quarterback. So, as a flawless garnish to that year, a radio caller on Thursday to ESPN 900 Maui’s midday show, “Let’s Talk Sports With Kanoa Leahey,” epitomized the eccentricity of the sports fanatic.

In that apparently insatiable need to speculate about what comes next, the caller, on with host Jordan Helle that day, referred to Taulia Tagovailoa, a high school quarterback in Alabaster, Alabama, near Birmingham.

Said the caller, “It’s amazing that he has a younger brother who’s supposed to be better.”

It sounded lunatic, of course, yet also like a thousand hoping calls in a thousand hoping towns, in the 48 states, on the U.S. mainland.

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