KEALAKEKUA — It’s never too early to start planning.
That was the thought behind the Collegiate Prep Bowl Games, which are scheduled for Sunday at Konawaena’s Julian Yates Field and will feature some of the island’s top Pop Warner talent.
Youth players with aspirations to one day play college football will be represented in the contests, which will pit the East vs. West in a Pro Bowl-like format.
The sixth- and seventh-grade game kicks off the afternoon at 2 p.m., with the eighth-grade game to follow at 5:30 p.m. There is no entry fee for spectators, but organizers from Team Hawaii International Athletics are asking for everyone to bring a canned food donation.
The game is not just about the players’ skills on the gridiron. Players with a 3.0 GPA and above are picked first to participate and the players also have to be nominated by a coach.
Sergio Mamone has been spearheading the effort to make the game a reality. He said that he learned a lot when he traveled to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida in 2013, inspiring him to put on the game for local youths.
“The idea was to teach kids how to get into college through sports before they get to high school,” Mamone said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the value of starting kids at a young age. Now is the best time”
The day is also set to serve as a informative experience for parents and players alike, with workshops and tips from coaches as well as current and former college players on what it takes to make it to the next level.
The westside squad will be led by Konawaena head coach Brad Uemoto. The East will be coached up by Hilo High coach Kaeo Drummondo.
“I love the idea of giving these players the opportunity to showcase their talent, but more importantly educate and expose them to the next few levels of competition,” Uemoto said. “We are running them through a high school formatted practice with very similar schemes. We will also introduce these players to the college process so they can start their high school careers knowing what they need to accomplish for the college level.”
Mamone is happy to have two of the top coaches in the BIIF on board for the games, lending their expertise.
“We have been working on this for the last three years, but there had previously been little support,” Mamone said. “This year, to have the help of Kaeo and Brad has helped a lot. Those guys are awesome to give their time. I hear nothing but good things about their programs and how professional they are.”
As for the future, Mamone hopes the game grows not only locally, but nationally.
“With help, three years from now I would like to make this a nation game, getting kids all over to come to the Big Island and play,” he said. “We don’t want to take this to Aloha Stadium, or anywhere else. We want in here on the Big Island.”
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