Long Beach Poly football legend Herman Ho-Ching died last weekend at the age of 44, when he drowned in the Clackamas River in Portland, leaving the local football world in shock and mourning.
Poly’s football history is filled with alums who went on to star at the NFL level, with more pro alums than any other high school in the nation. But despite his career being cut short in college, he stood up there with the best of the best in Poly history because he was a true hometown hero, inspiring a generation of future Jackrabbits with his hard-nosed play at running back in the mid-1990s.
“Growing up in Long Beach, the only spot to go after school was Long Beach Poly football practice,” said Marcus Falanai, who won a CIF-SS title at Poly in 2007 and who is currently an assistant coach with the program. “Herman Ho-Ching was the star to us neighborhood kids, always showing love to us young ones.”
Ho-Ching’s performance in the CIF-SS championship game against Mater Dei in 1997 cemented his status as a Long Beach legend, and it’s still considered one of the best individual performances in CIF-SS title game history. Ho-Ching was a running-back but had great hands and excelled out of the backfield with the record-setting QB Chris Lewis throwing to him. Ho-Ching had three touchdowns, including catches of 66 and 32 yards in Poly’s come-from-behind championship win, which gave them their first title since 1985 and ushered in a modern golden era for Poly. They also broke a 27-game win streak for Mater Dei and received national attention, with spots on Monday Night Football and cover spreads in the LA Times and Press-Telegram.
Just as important as his style of play was Ho-Ching’s undeniable and unapologetic Long Beach swagger. After the inner-city Jackrabbits knocked off the well-funded Monarchs in the championship, Ho-Ching and some of his teammates celebrated by popping the balloons on an elaborate balloon arch display Mater Dei had erected on the field, a celebration that was shown on TV and led an incensed Mater Dei administration to send Poly a bill for the balloons.
Hershel Dennis succeeded Ho-Ching as Poly’s running back and was a four-year star himself for the Jackrabbits before going on to USC. Dennis and Ho-Ching are widely regarded as the best running backs of the modern era at Poly, and Dennis said in a social media post there’s no overstating the influence Ho-Ching had on players at Poly.
“Rest easy OG, you were the GOAT, the inspiration I looked up to that motivated me to chase greatness,” he wrote. “You took me to my first Poly football practice. You will be loved, missed, and never forgotten.”
As evidence of his lasting legacy, more than 15 years after Ho-Ching played at Poly, Mike Mauai starred at running back and wore 28 in honor of Ho-Ching, and talked about what an honor it was to follow in his footsteps at the school.
The Ho-Ching legacy at Poly wasn’t just Herman. His brother Daniel was also a standout football player at Poly and then the University of Hawaii. Daniel’s daughters, Tiare and Kiele, were stars on Poly’s historic softball season this year and are both highly-recruited athletes, with Tiare committed to play at Arizona State. The girls are planning on playing girls’ flag football for Poly this year in the sport’s first official CIF-SS season, and wear their dad and uncles’ numbers when they compete on the softball field.
Service information is pending and will be posted when available.