Governors: Making Kalihi Proud
Wednesday - October 12, 2011
When the Farrington Governors held on to beat top-ranked Kahuku two weeks ago, it was no wonder that the Govs doused head coach Randall Okimoto on the sidelines as if they had just won the Super Bowl.
Yes, it was only a regular season game, but to fans of the boys from Kalihi, it was so much more. The 14-13 victory propelled the unbeaten Governors into the top spot in the state high school rankings and gave hope to the possibility that Farrington could be headed to a title game for the first time in more than two decades.
It’s hard to imagine that a school that produced Jesse Sapolu, the Noga brothers, Skippa Diaz and many more outstanding gridiron stars over the last several decades has fewer football championships than Waialua has bridges.
The last time Farrington won a big football title was in 1965 when the Governors upset Kamehameha in a jampacked Honolulu Stadium to take the ILH championship. Stan Cadiente and Walter Rodriques were the stars of that game. Although I moved to the islands years later, I remember the pride of my former Channel 2 colleague Emme Tomimbang in the Governors she had been a sophomore cheerleader at Farrington at the time.
Before that, you have to go back to 1944 for another Farrington ILH football championship. In that season, the Govs featured the legendary Wally Yonamine in the backfield.
I recall the pride that the city had in Farrington in 1990 when coach Skippa Diaz led the Governors to the victory in the OIA Championship game and on to the Prep Bowl. That team had a couple of outstanding linemen, Patrick Kesi and John Tatupu, and a little bespectacled running back by the name of Randall Okimoto yes, the same Okimoto who has been the head coach of the Governors since 2004.
Okimoto was a thrill to watch. At 5 feet 8 inches tall, what he lacked in size he made up for in quickness and heart. He had the innate ability to make would-be tacklers look silly, as he went this way and that way and made them go “no way can a guy with glasses be that good” but Okimoto sure was!
The Governors would face powerful Saint Louis in the Prep Bowl that year, and a victory over the Crusaders seemed improbable. When Aloha Stadium opened its gates for the game that night, they weren’t expecting the outpouring of support for the Governors. Thousands and thousands of Farrington faithful, including alum and future Gov. Ben Cayetano, poured into the stadium. The ticket lines were so long that many fans didn’t get into the game until halftime.
By that time, Farrington was down by four touchdowns in what would turn out to be a 38-3 loss, but that didn’t dampen the pride that the Governor “nation” had in its boys from Kalihi. They had reached the Big Game, and that’s what mattered.
Several weeks later, when University of Hawaii head coach Bob Wagner found out he had an extra scholarship left over, he called Skippa Diaz for his recommendation: Did he have anyone worthy of the scholarship?
Diaz recommended his little bespectacled running back and Okimoto, despite his lack of DI size, fought his way up the depth chart until he finally played quite a bit his senior year at UH.
Now, in 2011, Okimoto and the Governors are back trying to reach the Big Game again.
Whatever the outcome, they continue to make Kalihi proud.
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