SALT LAKE CITY — Two of Utah's finest high school football players joined the best players in the country Saturday at the All-American Bowl.
Orem receiver Puka Nacua caught three passes for 49 yards, and added a 20-yard pass in the West’s 48-14 loss to the East in the All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
East High defensive tackle Siaki "Apu" Ika added a couple of tackles for the West, including a 1-yard tackle for loss in the first quarter and a QB hurry in the second.
Nacua hauled in a 32-yard reception from quarterback Ryan Hilinski on his first catch, converting a third-and-15 play from near the West team's goal line in the final minutes of the first quarter. Nacua threw a 20-yard pass to running back Austin Jones on a double-pass play in the third quarter that helped set up the West’s first touchdown drive of the game.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide out who has committed to Southern California also fumbled after a 3-yard pitch from quarterback Spencer Rattler, but the West recovered the ball on the second-quarter player. Nacua added a touchdown-saving tackle after an interception in the fourth quarter for the West.
Nacua was named the All-American Bowl's offensive player of the year Friday night, beating out quarterback Grant Gunnelll from St. Pius X in Texas, wide receiver Jadon Haselwood from Georgia, and quarterback Ryan Hilinski from California.
It's the latest such honor for Nacua, the record-setting wide receiver who rewrote the Utah High School Activities Association record book en route to player of the year honors from Gatorade, KSL and the Deseret News.
Ika picks LSU
Nacua finished his senior season with 2,335 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns on 103 receptions, leading the Tigers to back-to-back Class 4A state titles for the first time in school history.
In four years at Orem, Nacua caught 260 passes for 5,226 yards and 58 touchdowns — all state records. He also owns the record for most receiving yards in a season (2,336) and touchdowns in a season (26).
Kyle Ford, the No. 5 overall receiver in the country, announced during the game that he will be joining Nacua at USC next season, and Bru McCoy added to the Trojans' 12th-ranked recruiting haul by 247 Sports at a school which recently overhauled the offensive staff and brought in former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator.
Still, Nacua is not deterred by the Trojans' two new commitments.
"No, no, I'm still committed," he told USC's 247 Sports affiliate after the game. "I mean, who doesn't want those two players on their team?"
Nacua has not signed with the Trojans, and players are not bound by verbal commitments until they sign a national letter of intent. He recently took an official visit to Utah, where his older brother Samson Nacua will be a junior wide receiver in 2019, but currently plans to sign with USC in February.
Ika was also named to the All-American Bowl's roster on the West team. The 6-foot-3, 350-pound defensive tackle signed with Louisiana State over offers from Alabama, Florida, Oregon, USC and Utah during the early signing period in December.
Ika, who was once committed to BYU, started on the defensive line as the East jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead behind a trio of touchdown passes from Wisconsin commit Graham Mertz.
"You can't complain, coming out here and playing with the top kids in the nation," said Mertz, who threw for 188 yards and a bowl-record five touchdowns en route to MVP honors. "It’s an honor."
Formerly the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the bowl game was founded in 2000 and has produced 86 first-round NFL draft picks, 52 Super Bowl champions and two Heisman Trophy winners — as well as the two starting quarterbacks in Monday’s college football national championship, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and Trevor Lawrence of Clemson.