Official sunrise on this overcast morning is 6 a.m.
The Kamehameha Warriors, ranked No. 6 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason Top 10 and featured in today’s newspaper, which you can read here, can’t wait that long. There’s no time to waste. They hit the field at Kunuiakea Stadium for 5:45 a.m. practice. It is camp week, which means practice until 7:30 a.m., shower, breakfast, meetings and video study, afternoon practice, more meetings. When it’s lights-out time, everyone sleeps on the wrestling room mat.
“I’m not a morning person, but I’ve been getting up for workouts every morning anyway,” senior center Kahuike “Rev” Lorenzo said.
“You surround yourself with the guys and we’re always together. We have team bonding and a lot of fun,” junior left tackle Kuao Peihopa added.
Everyone is a good roommate. That’s what veterans Lorenzo and Peihopa say. They like to joke that left guard Bailey Lee, a two-sport athlete, leaves a mess in the wrestling room. They’re just kidding, until they take the field. In fact, a year ago, Peihopa was making the transition from defensive line to offense.
“It’s hard for the young guys. Last year, camp was deadly for me,” Peihopa said. “It’s hard when you’re trying to adapt, but at the same time, it was so good because I had Lokahi (Pauole) next to me. He is one of the best I ever played with and he made it a lot easier on me.”
Lorenzo is a third-year starter who is essentially calling audibles for his O-line. Peihopa has made a mission of his job as left tackle. Head coach Abu Ma‘afala, a former defensive lineman at Kamehameha, Hawaii and Cal, saw the dire need.
“Last year, a week before training camp, we only had six offensive linemen,” he said. “We looked over, he’s a sophomore, just getting on varsity. We asked him, we need you to make the move full time. He said, ‘OK coach, I got you.’ ”
As a 3-technique on the D-line, Peihopa was imposing. In the year since, he has labored and prioritized, dropping 26 pounds. He has transformed himself into a 6-foot-3, 280-pound force.
“He didn’t complain. We emphasize team over self, and he was selfless. He would train at 5 in the morning somewhere else, then show up to practice with his teammates. He trains 24/7,” Ma‘afala said.
The result is seven scholarship offers: Hawaii, Arizona State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Nevada, Fresno State and Washington.
“He created a bond going into the spring. He took the coaching, got it done and it’s awesome to see him blossom the way he has. He’s still a work in progress. I want him to be a leader on campus the way he is down here. He’s a great kid. The sky is the ceiling for him. His athleticism and body control is incredible,” Ma‘afala said.
The task is enormous. The Warriors are counting on Peihopa to be on the field as much as possible. The role of an ironman.
“My big thing to him was that he needs to keep his weight down and be in shape because this year he is our best player and he has to play both ways,” Ma‘afala said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. Last year, we had some really good defensive linemen so we had no crossover. But this season this kid needs to play 100, 120 snaps a game. He looks good. We need to keep him hovering around 280, 290 for the next two years.”
Peihopa is as gregarious as he is strong. Lorenzo is vocal when it comes to pre-snap reads and communication, but is otherwise a bit more low key. Articulate, but timely with his thoughts. He packs a lot into a 5-7, 220-pound frame.
“Rev is the shorter version of Olin Kreutz,” Ma‘afala said, referring to the former Saint Louis, Washington and Chicago Bears standout. “The nasty streak that he has, that’s something that his parents bred in him from a young age. He just has this instinct and this desire. He’s not afraid, but he has the athleticism and quickness to position block his guy just like Olin would. Olin had incredible feet and quick hands, and Rev has a lot of those traits.”
Ma‘afala saw this as a first-year head coach in 2017.
“Even as a sophomore, he’s just rolling people out there. I’ve never seen that guy going backwards. That’s a mind-set. He does it every game. I’m going to deliver the first blow. Rev takes the fight to the guy,” he said. “He’s trying to rip the guy’s face off and take him to the opposite end zone like Michael Oher in ‘The Blind Side.’ ”