Warriors going full speed ahead

Kamehameha Schools Maui football coach Cody Nakamura is all about picking up the pace.

He’s made it be known that half-stepping and a lack of focus will not be tolerated.

“If you’re slow you’re going to lose,” Nakamura said. “The tempo has to be high and the intensity goes up also.”

Nakamura, offensive coordinator Jordan Helle and offensive line coach Brian Harris were all on the Baldwin High School coaching staff last season. Nakamura, Helle and Warriors defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Trenson Himalaya all played for the Bears.

Kamehameha Maui senior defensive tackle Siaosi Ngalu has noticed things have changed.

“There’s a different pace from last year,” he said. “We are always moving, they know what they’re talking about, a good coaching staff. It’s a chance to start fresh and we’ll see how it goes here.”

The 27-year-old Nakamura is in his first season as a head coach.

“The experience so far has been very good,” he said. “Being here at Kamehameha, there is a lot of support from faculty, staff and parents. That’s a good start for sure.”

Kamehameha Maui finished 2-6 in Maui Interscholastic League play last season. The Warriors’ only MIL Division II crown came in 2005.

“This group of guys is on the fast track to being tough,” Nakamura said. “That’s basically the thing we want to coach them on first. That’s just the game of football.”

Nakamura, a former tight end at Weber State University, is young enough he can actually serve as the scout team quarterback against the Warriors’ defense during non-tackling 11-on-11 drills. Helle, who graduated in 2008, also joins in.

“We have our quarterbacks, but we don’t want them getting hit (by accident) or have an opportunity to get rolled up on and hurt a knee or anything,” Nakamura said. “Me and coach Helle take the reps at quarterback so they can stay healthy.”

Kamehameha Maui junior quarterback Chase Newton joked: “(Na-kamura) wants to get out there and show off a little and prove that he’s the best on the field.”

Last season, Newton played two games at quarterback, but was primarily a receiver.

He passed for 153 yards in a 29-21 loss to Damien Memorial School on Aug. 10 – the Warriors’ only preseason game of the season.

“He’s shown the proper steps before practice, after practice and during conditioning,” Nakamura said of Newton. “All the hard stuff that we have to do, he is showing up and saying something. His voice is being heard and the kids respond to it well.”

The leader of Kamehameha Maui’s defense is Ngalu.

“He’s not much of a vocal leader, but he leads by example,” Nakamura said. “He’s out there running hard, lifts hard, he’s always trying to hype guys up, too.”

Against Damien, Kamehameha Maui fell behind 29-7, but rallied for two touchdowns in the final minute.

“Just more discipline, more fundamental work, the fundamental aspect of it,” Nakamura said when asked what his team needs to improve on. “For sure we saw some good physical football. The kids showed that they have some heart. We were down pretty big late and were able to put a couple touchdowns on the board. We showed that we have the heart, we’re never going to give up.”

Nakamura said the Warriors will run a pro set offense and either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, but things could change.

“We’re playing around with some stuff and we’re going to find out what works and go from there,” he said.

Nakamura said he’d be interested in implementing the hurry-up spread offense that Chip Kelly ran at Oregon, but knows it would be difficult this season with the Warriors having only 40 players.

“Everything being ideal, that is definitely something we’d consider just because (Kelly) put up a lot of points and a lot of colleges and high schools are doing it now because of that,” Nakamura said. “So that would be ideal, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to get there yet because of the number of people we have. We have four or five guys going both ways.”

Nakamura believes on-field success will increase player turnout.

“New coach, new system, new team basically so some people are kind of skeptical,” said Nakamura, who added he’d like to eventually have a roster of 80 players. “Hopefully we’re able to make some noise and get some guys excited, then next year we can have 50 and then just kind of go from there.”

* Kyle Sakamoto is at ksakamoto@mauinews.com