‘Iolani senior Lanakila Pei was one of three captains for the Raiders in their homecoming game against Radford on Friday afternoon at Kozuki Stadium.
He is respected by his teammates, his coaches and even his opponents. It is why after fumbling twice on punt returns against the Rams, the only one who was down was him.
His teammates had his back.
“I haven’t fumbled since Pop Warner,” said Pei, a 6-foot safety/linebacker who was recently selected to the Polynesian Bowl. “I took (the fumbles) kind of hard because being a senior, being under this pressure, I know my teammates look up to me. I know that my family are here supporting me and I’m not having the best game. I take it kind of hard which I know I shouldn’t and my (teammates) kept telling me to blow it (away).”
‘Iolani coach Wendell Look and his staff held firm in their trust of Pei and sent him back out on the field to return a punt in the third quarter. The result? A 53-yard return for a touchdown that gave ‘Iolani the final margin of 38-0 in a win over the Rams to improve to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in ILH Division I play.
“Everybody was like, ‘I told you. Just flush it,’ ” Pei said. “I didn’t celebrate knowing that I fumbled two before. I just thank my teammates for their blocking and having my back.”
For Look, who won his 202nd game as head coach at ‘Iolani, that admiration Pei receives from everyone on the field is the best way to describe the kind of player, and person, Pei is.
“I think the greatest compliment he gets is the respect from not only his teammates but I think from opponents,” Look said. “They know that he is a player. They know that he is the guy that is going to lead us to where we want to go and I think other teams know that too.”
‘Iolani remains in control of the race for a state-tournament berth out of the ILH but has a big game coming up next weekend at Aloha Stadium against No. 8 Leilehua. The Mules have won the last three games in the series, including a 31-20 victory last year in the first season of the three-tier OIA-ILH football alliance.
“We’re ready to take on anything,” Pei said. “We play hard. We practice hard. I think we’re the most disciplined team in the state so I think we will be fine when we play big games.”
Pei, who also had a sack for ‘Iolani in the first quarter, said he was shocked when he found out he had been selected for the Polynesian Bowl, a high school football all-star game which will be played in January at Aloha Stadium.
“I had no clue,” Pei said. “It means the world to me. I’ve worked hard for it. My family has supported me through everything and the only reason I’m there is because of my teammates and my coaches for allowing me to play the way I have. It’s an honor to be selected.”
The real deal!!! Lanakila you killa