There were choices to be made in the thick fog of a global pandemic.
Iosefa Tapeni opted to grind as often as possible. Then a sophomore, the Kapolei two-way lineman trained like few others. As a junior, the 6-foot-3, 288-pound LT/DL has nine sacks in five games, a total of 14 tackles for loss. Kapolei is 1-4 in the rugged OIA Open Division, but its defensive unit has played at a high level.
That explosiveness that Tapeni uses to take down quarterbacks comes from the thousands of hours doing drills on the sand at Nanakuli, and the slopes of Kapolei Regional Park.
“Almost half the (MBC) team is on Kapolei,” Tapeni said. “The hills, honestly, I love running the hills. We run it seven times, not that bad.”
His MBC Athletics club team, under Mose Tuia — also the defensive coordinator at Kapolei — trained endlessly and traveled to the West Coast for competition during the pandemic
All that time invested into his passion. His future is bright on the gridiron. In Tuesday’s edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Campbell coach Darren Johnson compares Tapini to former Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl champion Chris Kemoeatu. Mililani coach Rod York believes Tapini would be a substantial contributor to a D-I college program as a senior in high school.
Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez calls Tapeni a quiet guy.
“He just doesn’t talk much,” the longtime coach said.
It’s a business-like mentality for Tapeni, who has still knows how to have a good time. He loves to sing, and one of his longtime pals, teammate Riley Camarillo confirms that Tapeni is a crooner.
“Sefa is a great friend. He’s a chill guy, funny, respectful and outgoing. I totally agree that he is a good singer. In my opinion, he’s the best singer on the team,” Camarillo said.
Iosefa Tapeni’s lockdown staples
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Black Clover.”
“That’s an anime I watch. It’s on a website. It’s just the fighting and the action, I love it. I get pumped up watching them fight.”
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Chicken katsu (L&L Kapolei)
“My mom (Tafa‘i) buys steak and she cooks it. Well done.”
3. Peanut butter jelly sandwich (7-Eleven in Kapolei).
“I get it for breakfast before school.”
Top 3 music artists
1. Cutty Banks – “Northern Drillafornia”
2. My Fabulous Life – “Into You”
3. Lauren Hill – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
Favorite class: Marine Science
Favorite teacher: Mr. Sugiyama (Ewa Elementary)
“He’s hella strict and stuff, telling me to do my work and stuff. He used to yell at me all the time. That was in fourth grade. He was strict on me to get my work done and stuff.”
Dream school: USC
“I would go in the past, like talk to my past self, probably about 6 or 7. I’d tell myself just live it up every moment in life. It’s going to go by fast.”
Hidden talent: singing.
“I can sing. I sing to let off stress. I like to sing Mariah Carey, ‘We Belong Together’. Another one is ’She Was The Best’ by The Green.’ ”
“I never played (organized) volleyball, but I know how to play. I’d probably set. I can set pretty good. My vertical is pretty decent. I can’t dunk, but I can grab the rim.”
“Shout out to my parents (Ausage and Tafa‘i). They’ve been doing everything for me ever since I was young. Shout out to all my coaches, especially coach Mose. And all my friends that support me.”