Sometimes, the journey is the reward.
With a busload of departures due to graduation, the Farrington Governors look like a very different team this fall. On paper. The potent offense, steady defense — both were fortified by tremendous talent and vast experience. The Govs reached the OIA Division I championship game, upsetting Kapolei along the way, before losing in the HHSAA Open Division quarterfinals.
Now, Coach Randall Okimoto and his staff are rebuilding with a team of mostly first-year starters and replacements, and are ranked No. 8 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason top-10 rankings.
They’ll be counting heavily on the returnees who contributed last season. It will take a blessing of patience, starting with seniors like Blessing Umaga.
“Last year was a big change because I’d been a middle linebacker. Moving to running back was a big difference for me,” said Umaga, whose role was to block, block and occasionally carry the ball into the trenches.
With Challen Fa‘amatau and a host of offensive weapons now gone, Umaga will remain busy at RB and ‘backer.
“Our team is going all out. We’re ready to scrimmage,” he said after a 6 a.m. practice at sparkling-new Skippa Diaz Stadium.
Umaga’s poise and patience are part of the Governors’ leadership, along with seniors like Fo‘i Sila and Titan Pesamino. Sila intends to be a force at defensive tackle while Pesamino is making the switch from end to mike ‘backer.
“I’ve been telling him about shooting the gaps,” said Umaga, who counts former Gov LB and current UH player Jeremiah Pritchard as one of his role models.
“He was our middle linebacker my freshman year. He was always active, plenty of strength and always flying to the ball. He was a student of the game. A captain and a leader on the defense,” Umaga said.
He hopes to follow Pritchard’s path to Manoa. Umaga’s skills include his artistic ability. He hopes to become a tattoo artist one day like two of his uncles.
“I love to draw. I want to get my tattoo license,” Umaga said. “My uncles used to do backyard tattooing and now they have their license.”
Umaga’s art is all freehand.
“My uncle (Ali‘i Scanlan) says practice makes better,” he said.