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Thursday, January 04, 2007

10 Islanders to play in the Hula Bowl

The Kai team will have a decided home-field advantage in the Jan. 14 Cornerstone Bankcard Hula Bowl at Aloha Stadium.

Seven players who just completed their UH careers -- plus former Warriors defensive lineman Abu Ma'afala -- will play for the Kai. Ma'afala's teammate at Kamehameha, wide receiver Caleb Spencer (Nevada), will also play for the Kai, as will Utah offensive lineman Tavo Tupola, a former Kahuku standout.

Hawaii safety Leonard Peters, running back Reagan Mauia, defensive ends Melila Purcell and Ikaika Alama-Francis and receiver Ross Dickerson join running back Nate Ilaoa and offensive lineman Dane Uperesa, who had already committed to the game.

The count would've been nine Warriors (10 if you count Ma'afala, who transferred to Cal after two years at UH), but offensive linemen Samson Satele opted instead for the Senior Bowl and Tala Esera for the East-West Shrine Game.

Hula Bowl executive director Joe Dan Rogers said the other Warriors are committed to the Hula Bowl, and he doesn't expect anyone to skip it for another opportunity at this point.

Uperesa said he's still hoping for a Shrine Game invite, but also that he will play in the Hula Bowl regardless. Alama-Francis -- projected as a second-round pick -- could also play in the Shrine or Senior games.

"His key is to get in there and let people see him," UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said of Alama-Francis, who did not play high school football.

The strong Hawaii contingent will help Hula Bowl attendance, which has been poor in recent years, Rogers said.

"Also, it's a great opportunity for these players to showcase their talent for the home crowd one more time," Rogers said. "Also, they'll be practicing in front of scouts all week."

Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky will also suit up for the Kai team, Rogers said.

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