'Bamboolas' on Big Island


POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009

As the Farrington Governors embark on their longest road trip of the season, it's worth noting one unusual fact.

In the amount of time it'll take Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Honokaa to travel to the game site—Kealakehe High School, roughly 50 miles away—the Governors could have a quicker trip. While the “;host”; Dragons board a bus and weave their way through Kamuela, then the donkey-laden upper highway en route to Kealakehe, Farrington could be on board its flight, then make the short 3-mile drive from Kona International Airport to the field just as quickly.

Sure, the Govs have all kinds of baggage and gear to haul, but the elements of tonight's opening-round game in the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships start with this fact: This is no home game for either team. Though Honokaa is technically the host, the Dragons don't have a traditional home stadium.

The lack of enclosure—determined spectators could enter from various points—at their home field is the biggest reason the game is at Kealakehe. Another is seating: Bleachers are limited at Honokaa, where many fans watch games from lawn chairs next to their cars on the school driveway overlooking the field.

No, Kealakehe was a no-brainer as a site, especially since other potential sites on the east side (Hilo or Keaau) are wet and windy this time of year.

































































































@ CampbellW, 20-14
@ RooseveltW, 20-17
CastleW, 19-8
McKinleyW, 41-7
KailuaW, 17-7
KahukuL, 16-14
KaimukiW, 20-17
KapoleiW, 26-7
LeilehuaL, 9-7
CastleW, 42-26


HONOKAA 8-3 (7-1 BIIF)


@ Hawaii PrepL, 26-20
@ KauaiL, 47-7
KonawaenaW, 34-22
@ WaiakeaW, 21-15
@ HiloL, 14-12
KeaauW, 29-19
KealakeheW, 7-6
HiloW, 28-14
WaiakeaW, 19-0
@ KeaauW, 28-0
@ KealakeheW, 37-14



The Dragons are just happy to have a shot. Despite a relatively low enrollment, the community never wanted to move down to Division II, instead hanging in there as Honokaa won its first BIIF title since 1974. They did it in style, twice knocking out island powerhouse Kealakehe.

The progress of the program has been remarkable considering the severe discipline problems that erupted in recent years. The return of former coach Fred Lau was instrumental in the attitude change. Lau's reach in the program goes back to the 1970s and '80s, and his low-key, tough and fair approach paid dividends even after a tough-to-swallow 26-20 loss to arch rival (and D-II) Hawaii Prep to start nonconference play.

“;We needed to change the attitude completely. I surrounded myself with a good staff,”; Lau said, noting assistant Bully Fergerstrom as one of their best taskmasters. It didn't hurt, of course, that much of the community's respect for Lau was already built in.

“;A bunch of the kids, I coached their parents in the past,”; Lau said.

Lau's discipline has not waned with the postseason. Two offensive starters, a tackle and a wide receiver, are out for tonight's game.

On paper: Farrington (8-2) vs. Honokaa (8-3), Kealakehe field. The winner will play No. 1 seed Kahuku next week at Aloha Stadium.

This is Honokaa's first appearance in the D-I state tourney. Farrington is making its third state trip in a row. Last year, Farrington ousted Kealakehe 30-13 before losing to eventual state champ Punahou 35-28 in the semifinals. In 2007, the Govs lost at Baldwin 26-14 in the first round.

Farrington has been scouted by opponents near and far thanks to live TV broadcasts, but there's nothing repetitious about Harry Tuimaseve's numbers. The senior running back, running behind his line of “;Bamboolas,”; has amassed 1,343 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. That includes a 95-yard effort against a stout Kahuku defense, and a season-high 178 yards in a win over Castle that clinched a state berth.

Coach Randall Okimoto, who was a standout running back for the Govs during his playing years, is a big believer in a one-back system. Tuimaseve had a career-high 36 carries against Castle.

Honokaa, meanwhile, is riding a six-game win streak. Quarterback Sage Johnson (5-10, 170) is a game changer, using his legs as well as his arm.

“;He's a playmaker,”; Lau said of the senior, who has 12 rushing touchdowns and eight scoring tosses. “;Some games, he's very well-disciplined. Other games, because of how much he wants the team to win, he forces it.”;

Johnson will need all his discipline to read a fierce pass rush led by V.J. Fehoko (6-0, 210), Charles Tauaefa (5-9, 210), Keith Chargualaf-Tuilaepa (5-8, 280), Seth Ilae (5-11, 225) and Justin Vele (6-0, 205).

Eddie Morales is a two-way weapon for Honokaa. He scored three touchdowns—two on catches of 45 and 70 yards—and intercepted two passes in the finale against Kealakehe.

The skinny: Kealakehe has long dominated the BIIF, but Honokaa used skill, heart and, yes, self-control, to prove that it was no fluke. A 7-6 win over the Waveriders early in the season was capped by a 37-14 victory to close the regular season.

Prior to the second win by the Dragons, they watched the junior varsity game, a 72-22 run-up win by the Waveriders. That riled up the varsity team, but when Honokaa had its chance to score deep in Kealakehe territory late in the game, Lau's team took a knee.

That kind of change, more internal and mental than anything, has lifted the Dragons to a new level and gives them a shot against the state's No. 4-ranked team.

X factor: Farrington didn't complete a pass in its win over Castle, but teams that stack the box eventually pay the price. Governors' cornerback/wide receiver Alvin Faamausili is one of the best deep threats in the state.