Epenesa to Take Break From the Court, Return to the Turf

Ryan Ash

Ryan Ash

Morgan Goebel, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Since starting the first varsity football game of his freshman season, 6-foot-5, 270 pound senior tri-athlete A.J. Epenesa has been an Edwardsville sports phenomenon who has taken few days off.

But this January, Epenesa is rewarded for his dedication with two weeks of vacation that other athletes only dream of.

Epenesa has been selected to play in the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, Jan. 7 and the Polynesian Bowl in O’ahu, Hawaii on Saturday, Jan. 21.

After his freshman football season was cut short due to a leg injury, Epenesa said he received a packet in the mail his sophomore year inviting him to play for the East in the 17th annual Army All-American Bowl during his senior year.

While he said he was shocked to receive such an honor so early in his high school career, his teammates were not as surprised.

“We’ve been on the same team since we started playing football,” senior quarterback Brenden Dickmann said of Epenesa. “I always knew he was going to do big things.”

Epenesa started off the New Year travelling to San Antonio to start practicing for the bowl game.

After spending the last two weeks on the basketball court, Epenesa said his first practice on Monday, Jan. 2 was tough; but by Tuesday he was back in the swing of things.

“The guys are a lot bigger, faster and stronger than I’m used to,” Epenesa said. “I just need to adjust.”

Epenesa will have less than a week back in the ‘Ville after the All-American Bowl before he catches another flight on Saturday, Jan. 14 for the Polynesian Bowl.

Epenesa said he was thrilled when he heard over the summer he was nominated to play in the first ever Polynesian Bowl, organized by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.

According to the organization’s website, “the purpose of the bowl is to feature the world’s elite high school football players of Polynesian heritage and other ancestries.”

The bowl game is a part of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week. Players will partake in different activities before the game to encourage an appreciation of their Polynesian culture, something Epenesa said his family takes very seriously.

“Obviously, the game is in Hawaii, so that will be a lot of fun,” he said. “But being with all the other Polys will be really fun as well.”

EHS alum Rodney Coe played in the All-American Bowl back in 2011, head football coach Matt Martin said he can’t think of another EHS athlete who has played in two bowl games his senior year.

“For his height and weight, he moves very well. He’s very explosive and fast with tremendous balance,” coach Martin said. “Football is a game of bigger, faster, stronger; and Epenesa is all those things.”

The Army All-American Bowl will be aired on NBC at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan.

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Epenesa to Take Break From the Court, Return to the Turf