With one game left in his high-school career, Farrington's Michael Lafaele is considering his college options.

Lafaele was at the heart
of Governors’ resurgence

He knocked heads with
some of the best and turned
the heads of many coaches

By Jason Kaneshiro

Lodged in the middle of the Farrington football team's offensive line, Michael Lafaele doesn't enjoy much time in the spotlight. But the senior center's work was far from unnoticed by high school coaches around the state this season.

"He's just tenacious," Castle coach Nelson Maeda said. "He's physically strong. He's got great feet and he'll pancake you. He runs well, he hustles. He was the leader of that offensive line."

Lafaele is among the Oahu seniors closing their high-school careers in tomorrow's Hawaii Union Builders Goodwill Football Classic at Aloha Stadium.

His name may not be familiar to those outside the Farrington community, but ask other coaches about some of the state's top players and "the center from Farrington" or "No. 67" comes up early in the conversation.

"He just gives 100 percent on every play," Farrington coach Randall Okimoto said. "And that's something he did every day in practice, not just game time."

Farrington center Michael Lafaele spoke with offensive line coach Shaun Ushijima from Iolani during the East All-Star' practice at Cooke Field on Tuesday.

Lafaele (6-foot-1, 275 pounds) earned a reputation as one of the OIA's fiercest blockers and was named an OIA East Red Conference first-team all-star despite learning a new position this season. After playing right tackle most of his career, he moved inside to center, where he was responsible for calling out the blocking assignments on the line.

"I think that's his natural position," Okimoto said. "Plus he's a smart player, so he fit in real quick."

Lafaele was one of the building blocks of a senior-laden line that helped the Governors rebound from a 2-6-1 season a year ago to qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 1999 this season.

Prior to this fall, the Farrington seniors hadn't sniffed postseason football. But a win over defending state champion Kahuku in the quarterfinals of the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs gave the Governors a place among the state's elite once again.

"It was a great experience being in states, or even being in the playoffs," Lafaele said. "It meant a lot just being in the top 10."

Farrington struggled early this fall and finished the regular season at 3-4. But the Governors earned a spot in the playoffs and took full advantage of their second chance.

The Governors' work up front helped clear the way for running back Matt Bell to rush for a conference-best 676 yards in the regular season and 1,141 overall.

"Everything was clicking," Lafaele said. "Everybody was working hard and everybody had one goal."

Although fun is the operative word surrounding tomorrow night's all-star game, Lafaele said winning is still important to him and the East squad. He said practicing alongside players he knocked heads with during the season is also an experience he'll remember.

"Everybody's good, so there's more competition and it makes you work harder," he said.

With just one game remaining in his prep football career, Lafaele has begun to look ahead to his future. He said Hawaii has offered him a scholarship, but he's taking his time making a decision on where to continue his education.

But no matter where he ends up, he's happy to have helped restore Farrington's football tradition.

"Before everybody used to talk (trash) about us, even in Kalihi," he said. "But now that we went to states the pride is back."

All-star football

What: Hawaii Union Builders Goodwill Football Classic
Who: East All-Stars vs. West All-Stars
When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Tickets: $5 general admission, free for children 6 and under

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