Courtesy Luke Adams
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 | 5:38 p.m.
Keola Antolin has fond memories of playing in Sam Boyd Stadium.
The 2008 Bishop Gorman graduate and freshman running back for Arizona is hoping to make a few more memories when his Wildcats football team takes on BYU at the stadium for the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl XVII on Saturday. The Home News is one of the bowl game's sponsors, which will be broadcast on ESPN at 5 p.m.
Antolin's last appearance was last December at Sam Boyd was when he led Gorman to a 38-17 victory against Reno's McQueen High in the 2007 large-school state championship. Antolin rushed for 178 yards in the game.
"Once I heard about the bowl I was like, 'Wow I'll be playing on the same field I played on during my last high school game,'" Antolin said. "That's the game we won Gorman's first state championship in 24 years."
Antolin arrived in Las Vegas with the rest of the Wildcats Tuesday. He said he would have some free time to visit friends that afternoon but the remainder of the week would be all business as he prepares to face BYU.
"It's crazy coming back home to play in front of my friends and family," Antolin said. "All of them are asking me for tickets. They give each of us six tickets so I can't give them to everybody. But I think some of my teammates will give me some of their extras."
Kawika Antolin, Keola's brother who is a senior at Gorman and took over his older brother's running back duties this season, followed Keola's freshman season closely. The Las Vegas Bowl will be third time he has seen his brother play this year.
"It's pretty exciting to see him come back to his hometown to play football," Kawika Antolin said. "It will be special. I miss playing with him at Gorman and wish I was on the field with him. I hope he wins the game."
Antolin has played in 11 of Arizona's 12 games this year and was second on the team in rushing with 525 yards on 117 carries including 10 touchdowns.
He also leads the Wildcats with 303 kickoff return yards on 14 attempts.
Antolin will not be the only true freshman from Las Vegas playing for Arizona as 2008 Canyon Springs graduate Juron Criner is also on the team. Criner played in all 12 of the Wildcats' games, catching six passes for 82 yards and one touchdown.
"I think it will be exciting for them to go back and play in front of their high school teammates," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "It's unique to go back and play your bowl game in your hometown."
Antolin said since Arizona found out the site of its bowl game, he has fielded constant inquiries about his hometown.
"Everyone is asking me where the hot spots are at," he said. "But I'm only 18, so I don't know all the clubs and stuff. But I told them about some good Hawaiian restaurants out here."
Arizona last played in the postseason during the 1998 Holiday Bowl.
Antolin said playing in the postseason meant gaining more experience for next season, when his role is expected to increase.
"Everybody has been talking about it all year long that we were going to a bowl game this year, so it's a great feeling right now," Antolin said. "Since it's our first bowl in 10 years, it really didn't matter which one we went to."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].