Lanakila Pei had his day in the sun — or his night under the lights, if you will.
A star in Hawaii and unheralded everywhere else, Pei had himself a ballgame at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night. The ‘Iolani safety, who was playing cornerback for the first time, intercepted two passes, had eight tackles and broke up two passes in key situations.
For that effort, he was named Defensive MVP in Team Mauka’s 20-13 victory over Team Makai in the fourth annual Polynesian Bowl.
Taking Offensive MVP honors was a name Hawaii people are familiar with — Sol-Jay Maiava, who has had his share of highlights as well. Maiava scored the winning touchdown with a 1-yard run around right end. He also threw a TD pass and went 8-for-10 for 73 yards and added 29 rushing yards.
Maiava played his first two high school seasons with Kahuku and transferred to St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., for the last two. He will play collegiately at BYU.
Pei’s performance may put him on the map with national recruiters. Later this month, he is going to Washington for an official visit. He may walk on there.
“Coaches told us that Mauka didn’t get a win in the past two years,” Pei said. “So we’re excited to get a win. Coming out here, I wasn’t the most known player. I didn’t have a lot of cameras on me. Everything is fine because I just came here to prove myself and prove that I can play with the best in the nation. I’m just a local boy trying to fulfill his dream. It was my last high school game and I’m glad I went out with a bang.”
Pei’s second interception came at the most crucial of moments. It set up Team Mauka at the Team Makai 21 with 5:21 to go with the score knotted at 13.
Six plays and 3:33 later, Maiava was in the end zone with a touchdown — for the eventual win, with 1:48 showing on the clock. Koali Nishigaya, of Hawaii Open Division champion Saint Louis, kept the drive going with a 6-yard run for a first down at the 1.
Nishigaya’s run was just one of many highlights by the Hawaii boys.
Steve Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman winner and the national championship-winning coach in 1996 at Florida, ended up on the winning side. He was head coaching against former Virginia Tech mentor Frank Beamer.
“They (Team Makai) had us on the ropes, but we got some turnovers,” he said. The defense played super in the second half.”
After the eventual winning touchdown, Makai had one more chance, but it was stuffed by Pei — with two pass breakups — and a sack by Saint Louis’ Stanley McKenzie (Cal).
The Hawaii-boy output was fantastic. Here are some examples:
>> Kamehameha’s Ezra Evailmalo (Hawaii) had a sack and a forced fumble for Team Mauka.
>> Kapolei’s Maceal Afaese (Oregon) had a sack for Makai.
>> Mililani’s Muelu Iosefa (Cal) had a tackle and made his presence felt on several other plays for Makai.
>> Waipahu running back Alfred Failauga, the state’s all-time leading rusher, had four carries for 20 yards for Mauka. He also caught two passes for 11 yards.
>> Punahou’s Alaka’i Gilman (Stanford) had six tackles and a pass breakup for Makai.
>> Kapolei’s DeZhaun Stribling made three catches for 58 yards for Mauka, including a nice over-the-shoulder grab for 40 yards.
>> Nishigaya made two catches for 38 yards in addition to his 6-yard run that set up the winning TD.
>> Campbell’s Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala (Hawaii) made one catch for 11 yards for Makai.
>> Hilo’s Kilohana Haasenritter (Hawaii) caught a touchdown pass. He also had a TD catch that was called back due to a penalty.
>> Saint Louis safety Kamo’i Latu (Utah) made four tackles and had one pass breakup for Makai.
>> Saint Louis quarterback Jayden de Laura (Washington State) went 9-for-10 for 139 yards with an interception (by Pei in the end zone). He was the game’s leading passer.
>> McKenzie (Cal) finished with two tackles.
Polynesian Bowl Box Score
Team Mauka 20, Team Makai 13
Team Mauka 7 3 0 10 — 20
Team Makai 0 13 0 0 — 13
Mauka—Demond Demas 11 pass from Sol-Jay Maiava (Owen Daffer kick)
Makai—Kilohana Hassenritter 7 pass from Parker McQuarrie (Jake Siebert kick)
Mauka—FG Daffer 34
Makai—Bijan Robinson 1 run (kick failed)
Mauka—FG Daffer 28
Mauka—Maiava 1 run (Daffer kick)
RUSHING—Mauka: Maiava 6-29, Lawrence Toafili 5-28, Alfred Failauga 4-20, AJ Henning 1-17, Koali Nishigaya 1-6, Robby Ashford 1-1, Noah Sewell 1-1, TEAM 1-(minus 5), DJ Uiagalelei 2-(minus 6). Makai: Chris Tyree 6-40, Robinson 4-16, Ikaika Ragsdale 4-15, Malik Hornsby 3-15, TEAM 2-(minus 15), McQuarrie 2-(minus 20).
PASSING—Mauka: Uiagalelei 10-21-0—125, Maiava 8-10-0—73, Ashford 3-6-0—27. Makai: McQuarrie 8-12-0—83, Jayden de Laura 9-10-1—139, Hornsby 2-4-1—21.
RECEIVING—Mauka: Kevin Bauman 4-38, Roman Wilson 4-29, Dez Ryan Stribling 3-58, Koali Nishigaya 2-38, Demas 2-22, Rome Odunze 2-18, Failauga 2-11, Henning 1-7, Toafili 1-4. Makai: Kris Hutson 5-86, LV Bunkley-Sutton 3-41, Robinson 3-35, Leonard Manuel 2-21, Tyree 2-8, Joe Royer 1-33, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala 1-11, Haasenritter 1-7, Mark Redman 1-1.