Auburn hosts inaugural Tanoa Bowl Jan. 1 at Auburn Memorial Stadium

Auburn will host the inaugural Tanoa Bowl on New Year’s Day, featuring some of the best high school football players from Washington and Alaska.

Auburn will host the inaugural Tanoa Bowl on New Year’s Day, featuring some of the best high school football players from Washington and Alaska.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Auburn Memorial Stadium.

The game will pit 30 players from Alaska against 30 players from Washington, including Auburn’s Nick Conlan, Aaron McMahon, E.J. Strickland and Keila Suka-Siose. The event will include a player skills competition and a combine for small college scouts.

“The biggest reason I did this is that I see a lot of our kids get missed by these big (all-star) bowl games they have all over the country,” said Auburn resident Simi Strickland, the event organizer. “They pick one or two kids from the state, and they go there and play. We wanted to create this as a celebration, congratulating them on their season and the 12 years (of school) they’ve put in.”

Although the event has a definite Polynesian feel – from the name of the game (a tanoa is a traditional wood-carved serving bowl common in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga) to the players – Strickland said the game is open to players of any ethnicity.

Festivities kick off next week, beginning with team practices on Monday and Tuesday. Players will gather Wednesday for a seminar and combine at Auburn Mountainview High School.

“We do have some (small college) coaches stopping by,” Strickland said. “They’re going to drop by some practices, the combine and the game.”

Although many of the players already have committed to college, Strickland hopes the week’s events will allow some kids the chance play college ball.

On Friday, Dec. 31, the team’s will compete in a skills challenge at Auburn Memorial Stadium.

In addition to the Auburn players, the Washington roster will include Curtis’ Rahmel Dockery and Cornelius Edison and Kent-Meridian’s David Jones. The Washington team will be coached by Auburn Mountainview coach Craig Spence and his staff.

“Our goal is to make this into a week-long event for the kids,” Strickland said. “For us, it’s just another way to show our appreciation for the 12 years of work they’ve gone through.”

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