Old friends visit Aloha Stadium
The Hula Bowl is traditionally a homecoming game for former Hawaii prep stars at the end of their careers, including some who play college ball on the mainland.
Five such players -- offensive linemen Palauni Ma Sun (Kahuku/Oregon), Frank Fernandez (Saint Louis/Harvard) and Tavo Tupola (Kahuku/Utah), defensive lineman Abu Ma'afala (Kamehameha/UH/Cal) and wide receiver Caleb Spencer (Kamehameha/Nevada) -- suited up for the Kai.
Fernandez only played in the second quarter because an old back injury flared up. But he said it was still a great experience.
"It's a beautiful homecoming. I got to see all my little cousins who didn't get to come out to a game," he said. "To play maybe my last game here at Aloha Stadium where I played all my high school ball is great."
Welcome back Carter: Aina defensive line coach Rubin Carter made his mark at the Hula Bowl in 1975, when the Miami All-American was named MVP, playing nose tackle. He went on to an outstanding NFL career as a stalwart of the Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense.
Carter, now the head coach at Florida A&M, was credited by Kai head coach Rich Rodriguez for putting together a solid unit in less than a week.
"He did a great job with them, and obviously they have some talent," Rodriguez said.
One of the more gifted is end Jay Richardson of Ohio State. He made two sacks yesterday.
"I thought the two Penn State guys (tackle) Jay Alford and (middle linebacker) Tim Shaw did a great job up front, too," Carter said.
Carter was one of the most hands-on coaches at practices during the week.
"If you do it this way, it will make you some money," Carter said, while instructing proper technique.
Where's the kicker?: With a 10-3 lead in the third quarter, the Kai offense wasted opportunities to put points on the board by twice going for it on fourth down instead of attempting what would have been 45-yard field goals. Either kick would have made it a two-possession game.
Kai's kicker, Texas' Greg Johnson, nailed a 23-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and finally got a chance to connect from 48 yards midway through the fourth quarter, but hooked the kick wide left.
Figurs nearly goes to the house: Kansas State wide receiver Yamon Figurs returned a punt 60 yards late in the third quarter, and nearly took it all the way for a touchdown. He just barely stepped out of bounds at the 34-yard line after being touched by Aina punter Neal Bainbridge.
There were no review challenges used in the game, but that didn't stop Kai coach Pat Hill from throwing his red Bulldogs hat on the field as if it was a challenge flag.
Nikang Kai's MVP: Elon linebacker Chad Nikang earned most valuable player honors for the Kai team after recording nine tackles.