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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 1, 2002

Okimoto to coach Governor football

By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer

One homegrown product will take over for another as head football coach at Farrington High School this coming season.

Randall Okimoto, a former All-State running back for the Governors who later played for the University of Hawai'i, replaces David Pila, a 1985 Farrington graduate who stepped down after one year to spend more time with his family.

Pila, who also is the Governors' varsity boys basketball head coach, and his wife are expecting their third child in September.

Okimoto, 28, was Farrington's head JV football coach last season (4-3-1) and spent the previous four years as the Governors' JV defensive coordinator. He teaches physical education at the school.

"I never would think this would happen; I never expected to be the head coach here," Okimoto said. "I just thought I would go back and help. I know it's a big challenge, but when people ask for my help, I usually don't say, 'No.' "

Especially when those people are from Farrington. Like Pila, Okimoto has deep roots with the Governors.

Okimoto grew up in a small housing project near Meyers Street in Kalihi, but his family moved to Kapolei before his senior year. He earlier turned down financial aid to attend a private school, and again stuck to the maroon and white and commuted to Farrington every morning to graduate from there.

Okimoto said after he earned his degree in education from UH in 1999, "there was really only one school where I wanted to teach" and coach.

"My heart is at Farrington," he said.

The Governors have one of the state's most successful and tradition-rich football programs, but they struggled to a 1-6-1 record in the O'ahu Interscholastic Association's Red (top-level) Conference last season.

A major problem was academic casualties, as 16 starters missed the first three games of the season while on probation.

"I know Coach Pila worked hard on that this spring, with grade checks and tutoring," Okimoto said. "It's always a concern, but hopefully we won't have the same problem."

On the field, Okimoto said he will emphasize defense.

"I really believe that's what wins championships," he said. "When we won the OIA title (in 1990), it was mostly because we had a great defense."

Okimoto rushed for over 1,000 yards that year. On offense, he said he plans to install schemes taken from the spread-option and West Coast attacks he learned at UH.

"It depends on the personnel we have," Okimoto said. "But I'd like to mix it up and have a multiple set."

Whatever system is installed, Okimoto and others expect the Governors to exhibit the same type of gritty effort he displayed as a 5-foot-6, 160-pound tailback.

"He was a strong kid, tough as nails, who had heart and worked his okole off," said Skippa Diaz, Okimoto's high school coach. "He's still like that — very dedicated and conscientious. To watch your former players go to college, get their degrees and come back to teach and coach, it's like watching your own kids grow up.

"He knows what it takes and he knows what is expected, and he's got all the ingredients to succeed. I'm very pleased he's our new coach."