If anyone has to ask, Marcus Mariota already has the answer.
He’ll risk injury to play a dangerous sport like football because, well, he likes it. A lot.
“To be honest,” he said before kickoff, “I’m playing because it’s going to be fun.”
The Saint Louis senior quarterback rocketed touchdown passes to Eric Lum and Kaipo Pale in the first half to lead the East All-Stars to a 21-7 win over the West last night in the HUB Foundation Senior Goodwill Bowl at Kapolei High School.
Mariota, named the offensive player of the game for the East squad, already has a scholarship offer from Oregon in hand. His verbal commitment to the No. 1-ranked Ducks is a matter of record.
In two weeks, Mariota will play in the Gridiron All-America Bowl in South Carolina. More fun, even as Oregon fans hold their collective breath.
At Kapolei’s well-lined grass field, the East’s defense was in control most of the night, while the offense had its ups and downs. The ups were nifty at times in Coach Gary Rosolowich’s offense, but both teams had problems with shotgun snaps.
With the best seniors from the state’s two best teams — Saint Louis and Kahuku — stacking the East, the final score was no surprise.
Post-game honors went to the West’s Trent McKinney (offense), Austin Schmidt (defense) and Fred Padrones (special teams); the East honorees were Mariota (offense), Moses Alimoot and Traysen Medeiros (defense), and Lum (special teams).
A spirited crowd of about 1,000 saw both defenses dominate most of the game. The East picked off West passers six times; Almoot (Castle) and Medeiros (Kahuku) snatched two interceptions apiece, and Lancelot Williams (Farrington) had another.
However, when Mariota took the field — he shared time in the pocket with Castle’s Jaymason Lee and Kahuku’s Evan Moe — the East was a beast.
His first pass of the game, a 28-yard play-action strike to Lum, gave the East a 7-0 lead. It was his legwork, three keepers for 27 yards in his team’s first possession, and the churning of running back Darius Anderson that set up the scoring play.
“He’s fast, man. When he turns that corner, he’s such a threat,” West coach Wendell Say said.
After that touchdown with 5:41 left in the opening quarter, the East shackled itself with a rash of holding penalties.
The East finally got on the scoreboard again late in the half. A fumble recovery by Kailua’s Ethan Mahaulu with 19 seconds remaining — after a bad shotgun snap — set up a 19-yard alley-oop spiral from Mariota to Pale. With 4 seconds to go in the half, the East led 14-0.
West quarterbacks Maika Ulufale (Radford) and Freddy Taliulu (Aiea) each tossed three picks, but McKinney (Mililani) had success mostly by ground. McKinney (64 rushing yards) used quarterback draw plays to pick up big yardage, setting up a 35-yard pass to Trojan teammate Hassan Richardson before finding the 6-foot-4 receiver for an 11-yard touchdown play.
The West trailed 14-7 with 36 seconds to go in the third quarter.
After turnovers derailed their next two possessions, McKinney returned and promptly gained 11 more yards on another draw play. However, he was ambushed by a horde of East defenders and hit by Moanalua’s Richard Villasenor. McKinney’s fumble was recovered by defensive end Juda Parker, who returned the ball 38 yards for a game-sealing touchdown with 5:39 remaining.
Mariota enjoyed that big play, as well as a 3-yard gain on a fake punt for a first down by linebacker Starr Sua-Passi.
“That sealed the game,” Mariota said.
“The best thing about today was playing with all these guys from around the island, the camaraderie and having a good time,” said Parker, a 6-4, 245-pound senior who wound up at Saint Louis after Word of Life closed its high school.
Parker began the season as a verbal commit to Tennessee, but has since declared himself undecided.
The game was physical, but never got out of hand. Only two personal fouls, one on each team, was assessed. The East was set back many times by holding calls, finishing with 10 penalties for 120 yards. The West had just three penalties for 30 yards.
Reserves and stars alike enjoyed the unique, once-a-year exhibition.
“It’s just fun having a clash of East and West playing each other. Last game, play each other,” Richardson said. “It’s basketball season now.”
Kamehameha’s stellar defensive end, Koa Ka‘ai, was all smiles after the battle.
“I had much fun, more than I expected. Playing all these guys, the caliber’s much better, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “You don’t have to read, you don’t have to worry about technique. You just go out and make plays.”
As for his next play, it will come at the college level. With a stack of scholarship offers waiting, Ka‘ai is clear about his current view.
“Undecided,” he said.
East 7 7 0 7 — 21
West 0 0 7 0 — 7
East—Eric Lum 28 pass from Marcus Mariota (Lum kick)
East—Kaipo Pale 11 pass from Mariota (Lum kick)
West—Hassan Richardson 11 pass from Trent McKinney (Chucky Kaahanui kick)
East—Juda Parker 38 fumble return (Lum kick)
RUSHING—West: Anae Va‘a 1-(-4), Fred Padrones 2-4, Ray Cooper 1-(-2), Victor Moananu 5-9, McKinney 6-64, Phil Hogan 1-(-1), Zachary Payomo 1-2, team 1-(-13), Maika Ulufale 2-6. East: Mariota 5-28, Darius Anderson 7-50, Agaese Tago 1-(-1), Josh Gonda 5-33, Jesse Carney 2-5, Jaymason Lee 4-(-15), Evan Moe 1-6, Chester Su‘a 9-24, team 2-(-28).
PASSING—West: McKinney 4-9-0-55, Ulufale 5-11-3-35, Freddy Taliulu 2-7-3-12. East: Mariota 2-6-0-47, Lee 6-9-0-46, Moe 0-3-0-0.
RECEIVING—West: Padrones 1-9, Charley Bollig 2-10, Cooper 3-6, Va‘a 2-27, Richardson 2-46. East: Lum 1-28, Gonda 2-17, Joshua Tupua 1-13, Shairone Thompson 1-7, Pale 1-19, Punga Vea 1-4.
Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser