Koali Nishigaya, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala, Solatoa Moeai reflect on Polynesian Bowl experience

Team Mauka receiver Koali Nishigaya (25) got past Team Makai safety Kamo'i Latu (48) during the first half of the 2020 Polynesian Bowl in January. The two played together in high school at Saint Louis. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Saint Louis slotback Koali Nishigaya just wants an opportunity to fulfill his dream.

After Saturday night at the Polynesian Bowl, he’s hoping a scholarship offer from a FBS program opens up. The explosive playmaker got his share of touches, nearly scoring on a 6-yard run late in the game. He also had two receptions for 38 yards. Prior to the Polynesian Bowl, his only QB had been longtime teammate Jayden de Laura, and Nishigaya produced an All-State first-team senior season.

“It’s a great feeling. Catching passes from DJ and the other quarterbacks, they’re the best, so it’s a blessing,” Nishigaya said. “It was tough at first, getting the timing with the quarterbacks, but we worked it out and we got the dub.”

After playing with de Laura since Pop Warner, Nishigaya got to see other receivers — on the opposing Team Mauka squad — benefit from his old friend’s skill set.

“He just does his thing. He lets the ball go. He’s a baller and he’s going to ball out at Wazzu,” said Nishigaya, who had a preferred walk-on invitation to Washington State before Mike Leach departed for Mississippi State.

“I just hope I proved to the Division I coaches that I can keep up with the best. Hopefully, I showed enough. We’ll see,” he said.

Kapolei wide receiver De’Zhaun Stribling hauled in three passes for 58 yards with DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson) and former Kahuku slinger Sol-Jay Maiava (BYU) at QB. One of his plays was a beautiful corner route and a perfectly placed ball by Uiagalei.

Maiava finished with 73 passing yards on 8-for-10 attempts and one TD. He also rushed six times for 29 yards and the winning score with 1:48 left.

Washington State-bound de Laura completed nine of his 10 pass attempts for 139 yards with one pick.

Waipahu running back Alfred Failauga carried the ball four times for 20 yards for Mauka. The state’s all-time leading rusher also had two receptions for 11 yards.

Saint Louis wideout Roman Wilson (Michigan) had four receptions for 29 yards. He was targeted by Uiagalelei, Maiava and Robby Ashford a team-high six times.

Hawaii signee Kilohana Haasenritter of Hilo found the end zone on a 7-yard dart from Parker McQuarrie (UCLA). Haasenritter’s future teammate at UH, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala, had one catch for 11 yards.

“It was good fun playing with great athletes from all over the nation. It just shows I can hang in and do just as good as them, and do what I can do,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “I made a lot of friends. A lot of them I’ll play against. There were eight commits to Oregon, so I’m going to see them again. The culture. I grew up here all my life, so everything’s just wonderful.”

Punahou safety Alaka‘i Gilman (Stanford) had six total tackles for Makai. Saint Louis safety Kamo‘i Latu finished with four tackles for Makai. Ezra Evaimalo of Kamehameha and and Stanley McKenzie of Saint Louis each record a sack in the fourth quarter for Mauka.

While Nishigaya and Failauga await FBS opportunities, Punahou offensive lineman Solatoa Moeai won’t forget a unique week.

“The brotherhood, of course. We got to cruise with our friends for the whole week. We got to practice and remember what makes it so special being Polynesian, man,” said Moeai, who signed with Utah. “And I finally got a ring. They give you a ring.”

As the members of the Polynesian Bowl class of ’20 go their separate ways, the week-long journey was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Seeing the kids was the best. We went to Shriners Hospital,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “Just bringing a smile on their faces.”


  1. Footballfan January 19, 2020 7:23 am

    MR. Honda, all the local Boys you mention, you don’t even list the Defensive player of the game Meki Pei once in your article ? you don’t even list his stats but you tell us Latu had 4 tackles? Bruh! Pei when kill it, 7 tackles, two pass break ups and 2 interceptions. One late INT to put his team in scoring position. He gets Defensive MVP award and interviewed in National TV. You hatin on Iolani, lol,

  2. Billy Hull January 19, 2020 11:54 am

    We did multiple stories on the game. Pei is featured here: https://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/local-boys-grab-the-spotlight-in-polynesian-bowl/

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Walaau January 19, 2020 7:09 pm

    Shame eh, footballfan…

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