High school football: Exposure won’t be issue for football showcase

When Life Champion Bowl executive director Keala Pule put together the Senior Bowl, his most significant addition was Doris Sullivan, because it was like getting Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

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When Life Champion Bowl executive director Keala Pule put together the Senior Bowl, his most significant addition was Doris Sullivan, because it was like getting Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Sullivan is the director and founder of Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance (piaahawaii.com), the state’s best veteran in the business for island athlete recruiting and NCAA rules and regulations.

One of the biggest drawbacks for Big Island Interscholastic Federation football players or those from other islands is a lack of exposure. It’s just not convenient for mainland college coaches to scout the 50th state in person, and a lot of Hawaii players don’t have the resources to travel to summer camps to get seen.

That won’t be the case with the inaugural Life Champion Senior Bowl, which will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at Kamehameha’s Paiea Stadium.

The Hawaii Football Club’s Senior Bowl is the first to include players from all the islands, and the first locally owned game that can be viewed in real time by colleges, family, friends and U.S. military around the nation and world.

The BIIF and state Department of Education are playing no part in the Senior Bowl. Kamehameha, which is a private school, did Pule and his organization a huge favor with the rental use of Paiea Stadium.

Because of Sullivan’s vast network of contacts, the Senior Bowl has the opportunity to be the most significant football recruiting tool in the Big Island’s history. Almost every year, at most the Big Isle might send one, two or maybe even three players on full-ride scholarships to college, either Division I, I-AA, II, III, NAIA or a junior college.

College coaches from the NAIA and junior college will be coaching at the game. The game will be broadcast live on scoringlive.com. Through Sullivan’s contacts, more than 1,200 college coaches have been invited to watch the broadcast.

Because of NCAA rules, Division I and I-AA coaches are not permitted to attend the Senior Bowl. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t scout the game on scoringlive.com.

“Over 200 colleges have responded and said that they’ll watch the game and asked that we send a roster,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to get kids exposure and this game is huge and will help a lot of kids. If a coach says, ‘I like this kid from Hilo, Ka‘u or Kauai and we’re interested in him.’ We can get the video out immediately to the college coach. That’s unheard of.

“Some colleges are coming with offers in hand and are prepared to give three to five scholarships. The Senior Bowl is unfolding into a nice event and I think we’ll have a good audience.”

Most of the Division I school have locked up or targeted their top recruits. But in so many cases, there are borderline players — even five-star prospects — who may not qualify through the NCAA Clearinghouse after they sign a national letter of intent on Feb. 4.

“The truth of the matter is most of the Division I schools won’t change their minds, whether I like this Oahu kid better than a California kid,” Sullivan said. “But coaches will still be watching the game, like those from UCLA, Weber State, Utah State, Hawaii, even Vanderbilt. They all have holes to fill.

“But for the Division II and NAIA school, this is the time that they offer and scoop everyone else up. A lot of Division I-AA schools will be watching the game and waiting as we all as some Pac-12 and Mountain West schools. The end of November is when the schools start pushing to fill holes or recruit kids. It’s perfect timing.”

Help wanted

Western New Mexico assistant Anthony Arceneaux, along with his brother Occidental College assistant Darnell Arceneaux, will be making the trip over to scout the game.

The Division II Mustangs finished with a 5-6 record in Arceneaux’s first year as the wide receivers coach. The Saint Louis graduate played at Utah from 1999 to 2002. WNMU is in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Kohala graduate Chyler Imai, a junior defender/setter, Hawaii Preparatory Academy grad Leeta Grap, a junior outside hitter, and HPA graduate Carina Verhulsdonk, a freshman defender, are on the Mustangs volleyball team, which finished with a 10-15 record.

Arceneaux isn’t flying over to go snorkeling at all the lovely beaches. He’s looking for future Mustangs who have good grades, character and talent.

“I’m totally interested. I want to get to know the kids,” he said. “I haven’t been to Hawaii in a while. I want to check out their character, grades and where their head is at. For me, it’s getting a feel if they handle being away from home.

“I really try to pick the kid’s brain. I want to know if they can persevere. Their talent may not be the greatest, but I know if they can stick it out, then I know we can coach them and they’ll improve.”

Besides the Arceneaux brothers, Pima (Ariz.) College, Briar (Iowa) Cliff, Dickerson (N.D.) University, Redlands (Calif.) College, Chaffey (Calif.) College, and Menlo (Calif.) College will attend and coach the Senior Bowl.

“This is a big opportunity for the Hawaii kids. One of the big things is that Hawaii kids get a lack of exposure,” Arceneaux said. “A lot of mainland kids get that edge solely because of their exposure. Talent-wise we’re comparable per capita to the mainland.

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“But the best thing is the kids have one more game. You always take it for granted and for some it might be their last game.

“The most important thing to get recruited is definitely the transcript. Every highlight we look at needs to match the transcript before we make any news. For a lot of kids in Hawaii, they just need somebody to see them. This game is a really big opportunity.”

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