The Polynesian Bowl is thriving in Year 3, with the amount of four- and five-star prospects increasing each year.
As a result, the uptick in national recruits has led to fewer slots for local players as the game becomes more prominent and exclusive.
Tamatoa Falatea knows he’s part of a select few, but the Punahou senior has showed he can do more than just hang with elite competition. During live practice sessions at Aloha Stadium, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State wide receiver hauled in two touchdown passes during practice, courtesy of BYU commit and Chandler (Ariz.) quarterback Jacob Conover.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be here right now, playing some of the best players in the nation and just to be here and play my last high school game in Hawaii,” Falatea said. “I mean, it doesn’t get better than that.”
While most of the players have also signed their pledges to their future colleges, Falatea is also a minority in that regard since he hasn’t chosen a school yet. A decision on his future is looming, but that won’t prevent him from enjoying this week’s festivities.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “Since we live here, a lot of other guys have been asking us questions about everything so we’re basically kind of the tour guides for the week.”
“It’s good just to be out here for the week. If we forget clothes or something like that, we can just call our parents and they can come bring it to us,” Punahou teammate and UCLA signee Duke Clemens added. “It’s good to be familiar with the place and play my last high school game with my family watching me.”
Kamehameha’s Tiger Peterson is in a unique situation himself, as he’s already enrolled at Hawaii. College coaches have become more lenient in allowing early enrollees to come to Oahu and compete in practices and the game. LSU’s Siaki Ika and Southern California’s Gino Quinones via Saint Louis are also early enrollees who were given approval to play.
Peterson says Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was a little apprehensive about letting him play this week, but after some negotiating, he got the green light.
“It was hard. He tried to make me go to class this week but I just had to talk to him and he let me go,” Peterson recalled with a grin. “Hawaii is filled with great football players. Just knowing that I was good enough to get selected, it means a lot.”
Despite being just one week into his college experience at Manoa, Peterson already noticed some lifestyle changes.
“It’s a big difference. It’s real different from high school, you’re literally on your own,” he said. ”People say it, but when you actually do it, it’s real different. But I’m enjoying it so far.”
Darius Muasau is also set to join Peterson at UH after signing in December but isn’t enrolling early. He’s already played on his future home field a handful of times as a standout All-State linebacker for Mililani, but knows there’s just as much at stake on Saturday night.
“Shoot, it’s been a lot of fun experiencing new things and meeting new people, making friends with some of the top athletes in the country. It’s been a great time,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in my home state and just being able to represent Hawaii means a lot to me.
“I’m blessed to be given the opportunity to play ball for my home state and be able to represent Hawaii. I’m just excited to get out there and play and be a Rainbow.”