MIL se­niors take to field for Life Cham­pion Bowl

The Maui News - - SPORTS - By ROBERT COLLIAS

Staff Writer

PUKALANI — The high school foot­ball ca­reers of 15 Maui In­ter­scholas­tic League se­niors will come to an end on Satur­day in the Se­nior Life Cham­pion Bowl at King Kekaulike Sta­dium.

Seven play­ers from Di­vi­sion II state cham­pion La­hainaluna High School, three from Kame­hameha Maui, two from Bald­win and one each from Maui High, Hana and Lanai will play in the fifth an­nual se­nior all-star game that is be­ing held on Maui for the first time. Kick­off is set for noon.

“Our first two years were on the Big Is­land, our last two years have been on Kauai and this year we’re on Maui,” game or­ga­nizer Keala Pule said. “When we were set­ting this up we set it up just for the Big Is­land be­cause that’s where we’re from. Things didn’t work out ex­actly the way we wanted it to, so that’s why we opened it up to the outer is­lands and ex­cluded Oahu be­cause that time (Oahu) had their own bowl.

“They (even­tu­ally) dropped the Oahu bowl, so we thought, ‘Hey, this is a great chance to bring to­gether all the is­lands. … Ev­ery is­land has been rep­re­sented in this event.”

The game’s head coaches are for­mer Kahuku head coach Reg­gie Tor­res and cur­rent Wa­ianae head coach Wal­ter Young.

The list of Maui County play­ers is filled with MIL All-Stars from sev­eral other sports, in­clud­ing foot­ball.

La­hainaluna will be rep­re­sented by Etuati Storer, Nyles PokipalaWaiohu, Vil­iami Hafoka, Ikaika Viela, Apakasi Felemi, Eli­jah Oliveira-Kalalau and Pablo Rico (who will sit out with an in­jury); Tris­tan Catan, Jay­den De­la­tori and Dane Abarra from Kame­hameha Maui; Bishop Wickes and Kili Madrid from Bald­win; Ky­mani Sombe­lon from Maui High; Hana’s Keoki Hoopai-Waikoloa; and Lanai’s Naighel Calderon.

Col­lege coaches from Pa­cific Univer­sity, Ge­orge Fox and Wil­lamette in Ore­gon, Colorado Mesa and Adams State (Colo.), Whit­worth (Wash.), Buena Vista Univer­sity (Iowa) and Golden West Ju­nior Col­lege (Calif.) are here for the game, which has a fo­cus on help­ing ath­letes nav­i­gate the road to col­lege.

“We have 13 col­lege coaches in at­ten­dance at the event,” Pule said. “They are here to re­cruit Hawaii and help our fam­i­lies through the process. Ev­ery cam­pus is unique, they have dif­fer­ent strate­gies of help­ing th­ese kids.”

The first prac­tice was held Wed­nes­day, two more were held Thurs­day and two more are set for to­day. The col­leges here also have held ses­sions with the play­ers to show them part of the re­cruit­ment and ad­mis­sion process.

“(Tonight) we are go­ing to have an ohana night, this year is go­ing to be more like a col­lege fair for the kids,” Pule said.

To be el­i­gi­ble for the game, play­ers must have a 2.8 cu­mu­la­tive grade-point av­er­age or be an NCAA qual­i­fier, has taken or is sched­uled to take the SAT or ACT, have rec­om­men­da­tions from their high school head coach and a school ad­min­is­tra­tor, and have per­formed at least eight hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice in 2018.

“The coaches have done a great job be­cause we do have an aca­demic cri­te­ria they need to meet in or­der to se­cure their spot on our ros­ter,” Pule said.

A com­mu­nity ser­vice project Up­coun­try in­volv­ing the play­ers was held Thurs­day.

“Ev­ery year our kids go out into the com­mu­nity and do some com­mu­nity ser­vice,” Pule said. “They give back to the com­mu­nity that has taken care of them.”

Spon­sors of the game in­clude Mar­cus Mar­i­ota’s Mo­tiv8 Foun­da­tion, Maui Linen Sup­ply, MPAL, Maui Po­lice Depart­ment, Meadow Gold and Pepsi.

Af­ter re­fer­rals for the game are re­ceived, videos of the play­ers are watched and in­vi­ta­tions to qual­i­fied play­ers are sent out — Satur­day’s game will in­clude 95 play­ers, ac­cord­ing to Pule. Un­of­fi­cial school tran­scripts must be turned in to show that the play­ers are at least near achiev­ing NCAA el­i­gi­bil­ity.

A draft in­volv­ing the head coaches is held to de­cide the ros­ters.

“It’s a jun-ken-po kind of mo­ment,” Pule said. “They may get the first pick at quar­ter­back, but then they get the sec­ond pick at run­ning back, and so on.”

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