The prep basketball season is in full swing with the completion of this year’s Capital City Classic on Wednesday, but three of the Crimson Bears were notably absent from the boys’ roster of the annual hoops tournament.
Senior wide receiver Colin Gozelski, senior lineman Ryan Baldwin and sophomore quarterback Phillip Fenumiai will join Juneau-Douglas football teammates La Fifita, a junior linebacker, and Juneau-Douglas junior defensive back Sean Niumataevalu in representing the state of Alaska against the All-Stars from Washington in the first-ever Tanoa Bowl in Auburn, Wash., on New Year’s Day.
The prep athletes from Alaska will have the chance for the first time to play in front of a national audience of coaches and recruiters from every level of college football in a game designed to promote recruiting opportunities. The Tanoa Bowl is the only high-school level bowl game in the Pacific Northwest, and one of only a half dozen in the country, according to a press release.
“We’re all really excited to get down there and play,” Gozelski said. “The colleges I’ve been talking to are all going to be at the game, so this is a great opportunity to show them what I can do on the field instead of on a highlight tape.”
Each of the five players from Juneau will have the chance to showcase their skills after joining other players from Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, the Mat-Su Valley and Anchorage for several practice sessions in Anchorage’s Alaska Dome.
“It used to be all you had to look forward to was the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Now we’ve got another game,” JDHS coach Rich Sjoroos said. “It’s nice to see our guys have a chance to contribute in that. It sounds like practices went well, and it helps to have a lot of the best players from around the state who are just football smart.
“They can pick up a system pretty quickly and it sounds like they’re pretty confident.”
And this isn’t just a showcase for upperclassmen. It’s an opportunity for younger players, like the sophomore Fenumiai, to get their names out there and to get on coaches’ radar now.
“Those kids can now get their name on the map a little bit, and that’s really hard for our guys to do,” Sjoroos said. “A lot of times they don’t get recognized until they are seniors, so to get some early recognition will help us out and help them out, too.”
Juneau-Douglas defensive coordinator Al Fenumiai will join the Alaska All-Stars’ coaching staff as the defensive line coach for his brother and head coach of the team from Alaska, Numi Ilalio.
The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. local time on New Year’s Day.
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