Team Makai wins the Polynesian Bowl in a contest filled with big plays

Jan. 20—Related Photo Gallery: Team Mauka faces Team Makai at Polynesian Bowl

Tyree Alualu didn't have a single memory of Hawaii, where he was born before moving to the mainland at a young age.

That's not the case anymore, as the son of longtime NFL player Tyson Alualu made the most of his selection to the 2024 Polynesian Bowl.

Alualu, a 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker from North Allegheny High School in Wexford, Pa., returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown for Team Mauka to open the scoring in Team Makai's 28-17 victory on Friday at Kunuiakea Stadium.

Alualu, who followed when his father attended college at Cal and then played in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers, was away from Dad this week as Tyson, now with the Detroit Lions, prepares for Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against Tampa Bay.

The Alualu family name was still well represented in the stands.

"Playing in front of my family one last time. A lot of them didn't get the chance to come out to the mainland to make my games, so this was a great opportunity to do that," Tyree said about what he will remember the most. "I'm glad I got to put on a show for them."

Alualu's Team Mauka led 17-0 at halftime before giving up 28 unanswered points to Team Makai.

Caden Durham, a running back from Duncanville, Texas, who signed with LSU, put Team Makai ahead for good on a 10-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Jayden Jackson and David Stone, who were teammates at IMG Academy in Florida, both signed with Oklahoma and both scored touchdowns on fumble recoveries for Team Makai.

There were 12 turnovers committed in the game, with Kaimuki defensive back Jeremiah White intercepting Punahou quarterback Ty McCutcheon for one of them in the second quarter.

White, who took the week off from playing on the Bulldogs' basketball team as their leading scorer, also made three tackles.

"Just to compete out here with the best of the best and come out with an interception is just a blessing," White said. "I just followed the quarterback and then he rolled to the right and I didn't think he was going to throw it but he launched it and I saw it in the air and went running to grab it."

Playing in the same game with as many as 13 five-star recruits and many more players headed to Power 5 schools, White held his own less than two weeks after being named to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State first team as a two-way utility player.

His time spent in the week leading up to the game was just as important.

"Just how fast and how quickly people can form relationships, because our team had a really good chemistry and not only that, we all hung after at the hotel and it was fun," White said. "My senior year has been going by so fast. Just taking it all in."

One of the three offensive touchdowns in the game was a 9-yard pass from Oklahoma State signee Maealiuaki Smith to Waipahu's Jayden Chanel in the second quarter to put Team Mauka ahead 17-0.

Chanel, who transferred from Aiea for his senior season and won a Division I state title with the Marauders, finished with three catches for 23 yards.

"Today felt great. Getting to play for my culture and staying home and playing and having the opportunity to play on national TV was amazing," Chanel said. "Getting selected meant a lot and mostly I'm going to take away all of the knowledge coaches poured into my brain. I'm going to take it to the next level."

As quickly as it began Sunday when players first arrived to the hotel, the most talented group of players the Polynesian Bowl has assembled in its eight-year history will go their separate ways.

Some will head back to class, already enrolled in college. Others will return to high school, like White, who was planning to make it to watch Kaimuki's game against Kahuku on Friday night until the game ran late.

Alualu is on an early flight out Saturday morning to eventually get to Detroit to see Pops play for a spot in the NFC Championship.

"Gotta catch that game. Yes, sir," Tyree said.

Nebraska signee Dylan Raiola, who was born and raised in Hawaii until middle school, led Team Makai with 111 yards passing and a touchdown on 7-for-15 passing.

Hawaii freshman Micah Alejado, who started attending classes last week, was 3-for-4 for 38 yards with an interception.

Kamehameha senior Moe Passi, playing in his home stadium, matched Durham with the longest running play of the game on a 15-yard rush in the second quarter.