Months ago their were 50 names on the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame College Player of the Year watch list. Today, that list has been whittled down to just five, and this year's group is dominated by defensive players including two local boys and a Rainbow Warrior.
First on the list is Kona native and Kealakehe alum, Manase Hungalu. A senior at Oregon State, the linebacker led the Beavers in 2017 with 97 tackles, including six tackles for loss, two and a half sacks, two interceptions, and had four pass break ups.
From a Big Island product to a Maui native now, Hercules Mataafa also made the short list. The Lahainaluna grad is a defensive lineman for Washington State where he recently earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors for recording five tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble, and had one fumble recovery in a single game against Utah. Mataafa was an ESPN, USA Today, & AP Mid-season all American.
Across the country, Andrew Motuapuaka earned an ACC Defensive Player of the Week accolade of his own with the Hokies this season. Born in New Zealand, the senior linebacker recorded 82 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and had three and a half sacks, and garnered third team All-ACC honors in 2017.
Junior linebacker, Jahlani Tavai is the lone Rainbow Warrior to be named a finalist. For a second consecutive season Tavai tallied more than one hundred tackles. The California-native had 124 in 2017, including 11 tackles for loss, five and half sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He ended the year ranked 11th in the country in tackles per game.
Finally, the last player to make this year's short list is Vita Vea. The junior defensive lineman was selected as a preseason All-American. He recorded 37 tackles and five and a half tackles for loss for Washington this year and is a Bednarik Award Semi finalist.
The Polynesian College Football player of the year will be announced on December 12th and will be honored at the Polynesian Football hall of Fame during enshrinement weekend on January 19th and 20th.
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