Hawaiian Electric Game of the Week
Garden Island plays host to 3rd annual Life Champion Senior Bowl

Kapaa running back Leighton Moniz is one of 10 Warriors' set to play in the third annual Life Champion Senior Bowl. Brien Ing | SL

Things have seemingly come full circle for Trey Shimabukuro.

The 2010 Kauai High graduate, who just completed his first season in the coaching ranks, is among the 20 or so college coaches and assistants on Kauai this week for the Life Champion Senior Bowl.

The third annual edition of the game will feature 132 high-school seniors from across the state as well as a few players from Guam and Samoa, and will be held, for the first time, at Lihue's Vidinha Stadium Saturday.

While coaches from the Division I (FBS and FCS) level are not allowed to attend due to NCAA rules, coaches from DII, DIII, NAIA and the junior college levels are permitted varying levels of participation.

That makes this hardly the typical trip home for Shimabukuro.

"I'm recruiting a little bit while I'm here and that's obviously my main focus, but it's good to still see some family, too," said Shimabukuro, the quarterbacks' coach for Western Oregon University.

The Life Champion Senior Bowl, which is put on by the Hilo-based Hawaii Football Club, was held on the campus of Kamehameha-Hawaii in Keaau the past two years, but HFC president Keala Pule said rotating venues and islands was always part of the plan.

"Our goal is to move the event from island to island and to communities of all the islands," said Pule, who thanked Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Parks & Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo for their efforts to support the game.

"They supported the event last year and made a contribution when we hosted it on the Big Island," Pule said. "Kauai County's involvement made it not only easy, but was a huge help for us to free up our budget, which allowed us to take care of many coaches."

Carvalho graduated from Kapaa in 1979, where he was a standout on both the football and basketball teams before going on to play collegiately at the University of Hawaii.

"The County of Kaua‘i is pleased to host this year's Life Champion Senior Bowl," Carvalho said in a written response to an email. "The players have worked hard throughout their high school years and are ready to move to the next level. This event provides them with a great opportunity to showcase their talents and to connect with college representatives. I think it's important that we support our young athletes and do our part to help them fulfill their dreams."

Carvalho has clearly bought in on the game, which has helped high school seniors gain exposure, and often times scholarships in its relatively short existence.

Many alumni of the Life Champion Senior Bowl have prospered at the next level — like Navy freshman safety and Kahuku alum Alohi Gilman — while others are in the midst of heavy recruitment from big time programs like Ole Miss, in former Pearl City quarterback Jordan Taamu's case.

"Alohi did incredible this year as a freshman," Pule said. "I can recall when Alohi came to the game, he did not commit to Navy yet, so that's how late it all happened for him and I think a lot of his play in the game helped."

One player looking to make the most of his opportunities this week is Kapaa senior Leighton Moniz, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back on Team Black this week.

"So far it's been super fun getting to meet new players and talents from all over Hawaii," Moniz said. "It's been good just hanging out with the team, bonding with everybody and learning new things."

Moniz always foresaw a future in baseball, but isn't counting out the gridiron route either.

"Baseball has always been my preferred route and football was kind of something to do and I had fun with it, but I've always been a competitive guy so I'm going out and giving my best and if I can maybe get a look that would be cool, too," Moniz said.

Moniz is one of 18 players from the Kauai Interscholastic Federation participating in the game.

"You know, even when we're on the field against each other, it's all fun and games, but being on the same team for once is pretty cool actually," said Moniz, who helped Kapaa to its third straight league title and consecutive trips to the Division II state championship game. "It's kind of nice not going against each other."

Moniz said he didn't get a chance to talk to Shimabukuro as of Thursday night, but he has fond memories of him.

"I remember him when I was a little kid and my brother was a senior and they would play against each other," Moniz said. "I think seeing him in the position that he is in, and knowing that he's from here — a Kauai boy like us — gives us a lot of ideas that maybe we can do that. It's really cool honestly."

Shimabukuro, in turn, offered some sage advice for Moniz and the rest of the players: "Just enjoy it."

"You've got to embrace the moment and just kind of live in it," Shimabukuro said. "I look back on my high school days and I wish I could go back and still play for coach (Derek) Borrero and Kauai High. Especially coming from Kauai, you've got to embrace the competition, love the competition and be able to have fun and go out and love it and I think these guys are doing it."

Kickoff is scheduled for Noon and the game will be streamed live at ScoringLive.com.

Reach Kalani Takase at kalani@scoringlive.com.





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