All-Star football team preps for 2nd JPS Classic appearance in Hawai’i

An opp for local players to be ‘seen’ by college coaches, says DOE sports director
tony@samoanews.com

The American Samoa High School Athletic Association (ASHSAA) Board along with the Department Of Education’s Sports Department has selected the best players in American Samoa to represent the territory in the Junior Prep Sports (JPS) Paradise Football Classic II that will take place at the Aloha Stadium in Hawai’i on January 12, 2017.

Leading American Samoa’s team back to the 808 State for a second time in a row as head coach for the All-Star Team is Pati Pati, who is also the head coach for the Samoana Sharks Football Program. He told Samoa News that their goal and focus is to “do better than what we did last year, but at the same time we want to expose our players to college coaches that will be at the Classic – represent American Samoa the best we can and to give God the Glory.”

This will be the second year that our local boys will be taking the fight to Hawai’i – this also means, a second year without a Samoa Bowl here in the territory. Samoa News spoke to the DOE Sports Director Li’amatua Amisone who said that ‘exposure’ of the athletes for scholarship opportunities is one of the main reasons why they’re sticking to this strategy — of taking the All-Star team to Hawai’i.

He added, “I would like to thank our Honorable Governor Lolo Moliga for his effort in sending our kids off-island – it was his idea to take our kids out there rather than have a Samoa Bowl here. The reason being, is to have our kids exposed to college recruiters and scouts in the United States.”

The trip costs over $100,000 for the kids and the coaches, as well as other personnel.

Amisone is one of the originators of the Samoa Bowl program, which started back in 2003. “In the beginning it was a quality tournament, that’s where we’ve seen top players from Hawa’ii,” he said.

However, according to Amisone, one of the issues and problems that kept some of the best players in Hawai’i from playing in the Samoa Bowls had to do with insurance coverage issues. “Lately, we haven’t seen those top players coming down with Hawai’i’s All-Star team when they come down for our Samoa Bowls,” he explained.

The DOE Sports director said Samoa Bowl organizers had informed Hawai’i that there is no insurance coverage for these bowl games for when a player gets injured. Not only that, he said, “These kids are looking to make a future in the sport, so if they come here for the Samoa Bowl and get hurt, not only are they not covered, but that’ll be the beginning of a questionable football career for them, so we understand.”

According to Amisone, in addition to the insurance issue, the only players that Hawai’i brought down are the ones who could afford to pay their own way. “One of the other reasons is that there is no exposure of athleticism at our Samoa Bowls – and that is one of the reasons why the Governor decided to start taking our kids to Hawai’I instead, was for college football-scholarship opportunities, especially with the amount of talent we have here on island.”

For the JPS Paradise Football Classic II, approximately 43 All-Star football players and nine coaches will represent American Samoa as a whole – all from different local high schools, according to head coach Pati. Each of the big schools was given nine player slots, while Nu’uuli Voc-Tech was given four.

The teams that played in the championship game were both given an extra slot aside from the nine they were already given so both of these teams came out with ten selected players each – Faga’itua Vikings 10, Tafuna Warriors 10, Leone Lions 9, Samoana Sharks 10, Nu’uuli Wildcats 4.

According to Pati, the bond between the players when they merged as a team came naturally. “All these players know each other because they’ve competed against each other for the past five months. Our focus as a coaching staff was to have them put aside their school pride and come together to represent their country — Amerika Samoa.”

The All Stars head coach said, “We’re trying to instill in them that this game is an opportunity for them to use the game of football as a vehicle to further their education.”

Pati told Samoa News that they’ve been holding three practices for the past two weeks.

“Since school is now on break, we have practice everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Stadium. As coaches, there is no doubt that our student athletes can play,” he said, adding that their focus now is to get all the players – and the coaches – to work together as a team and represent American Samoa.

When asked if the team is ready, Pati responded, “I believe that we are getting better each day – the players, coaches, and staff have been working hard in preparing our team for the JPS Classic physically, mentally, and spiritually. Coach Meafou and myself are the only returning coaches from last year’s coaching staff, so we try to share our experiences with the coaches and the team.”

Compared to last year’s All-Star team that participated in the JPS Paradise Football Classic – Pati told Samoa News that this year, they have more talent on the depth chart.

“I think we have a more talented team this year compared to last year. We have more skilled players that are fast and quick, compared to last year, when we had more linemen on the team,” he said.

Pati concluded, “We want to thank God and give Him the glory and honor. We also want to thank the Honorable Governor Lolo Moliga for supporting the youth and funding our practices. We would also like to thank the American Samoa Department of Education (ASDOE), the American Samoa High School Athletic Association, and parents for your support and prayers.

“Thank you America Samoa and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

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