Sign of the times: 2021 Polynesian Bowl cancelled

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.

So many high school football standouts pointed to the Polynesian Bowl as a sign of an uptick in the new year to come.

A sign of hope.

In fact, as recently as Wednesday, Kailua quarterback Cameron Friel and Punahou defensive back Kilinahe Mendiola-Jensen expressed their enthusiasm for the annual invite-only event, scheduled for Jan. 23.

On Thursday morning, however, the 2021 edition of the Polynesian Bowl was cancelled. Officials made the announcement on social media.

“Over the past several months, we have been working closely with State of Hawaii officials in order to host a safe and successful Polynesian Bowl. Due to the recent U.S. surge in COVID-19 cases, the complex state-by-state pre-testing and quarantine requirements for travelers and, most importantly, concern for the health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff, we have made the very difficult decision not to play in 2021.

“We look forward to a better than ever 2022, where the world’s top high school football players will once again gather in Hawaii to celebrate culture and play the game they love.

“Super Bowl MVPs Trent Dilfer and Doug Williams will serve as head coaches for the 2022 Polynesian Bowl.”

Friel knew that the bowl game wasn’t a guarantee, but the cancellation is still a downer.

“I’m all sick. I really looked forward to it,” Friel said. “But in the end, they did everything they could. They’re just looking out for the players’ safety. I totally respect it.”

The bowl game would have been the last in Hawaii for Friel. He is graduating early at Kailua, and had planned to wait until the Polynesian Bowl before departing for UNLV.


  1. Nothing but the Truth December 17, 2020 9:06 am

    Sad to hear that. I wonder if the entire PHOF event will be canceled, including inductees into the PHOF, dinner, and inductee ceremony at the Polynesian Cultural Center?

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