JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley has not lost a game since joining the varsity in the middle of last season.
Manley keeps it all together in Wahiawa
Every school kid around the country is aware of Pearl Harbor. But what young person has heard of "From Here to Eternity," and knows that much of it was filmed at Schofield Barracks?
Just like the Wahiawa area in the overall historic picture of Hawaii, Leilehua High School football is undeniably relevant, but kind of off to the side. This is true even in some of its most momentous times, including last year when Wahiawa held a parade for its state champs. And, today, Andrew Manley, the best high school quarterback in the state, toils between the old barracks and pineapple fields in relative obscurity.
When Hugh Yoshida's team was consistently excellent a generation ago, Waianae, Kamehameha, Saint Louis and Radford, among others, usually stole the spotlight. When debates about the greatest high school players in state history come up, spectacular Mules like Al Harris, Adrian Murrell and Lauvale Sape often get an "Oh, yeah, forgot about him," even from ardent observers.
More of the same is true now, despite the dramatic upset in the 2007 state final over Saint Louis, with a sophomore, Manley, leading the way. So far Leilehua has done everything right in defending the crown, 4-0 headed into tonight's game at Pearl City.
There's a lot more focus on the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, where the town private school behemoths do battle. Leilehua remained No. 2 in the polls after Saint Louis knocked off Punahou last week.
This doesn't bother Manley and his teammates.
"We're motivated to be No. 1, but we don't mind being No. 2," Manley says as he and the rest of the team prep the school field for practice. "We kind of like to play as an underdog. And we've proven ourselves every week. We'll try to be there at the end of the season."
Some consider Manley overrated, questioning his touch and footwork. I watched him throw every pass on target for nearly an hour Wednesday, before a couple of low ones, prompting technique adjustments from coach Nolan Tokuda.
"His accuracy was pretty decent last year, but he used to try to drill everything," Tokuda says. "Now he knows when to throw to a shoulder, when to put something under it."
Footwork? Check. Looked plenty mobile to me, and I'm told it's because of incessant work with the jump rope.
He's not quite the perfect quarterback yet, but getting better every day. He's got enough upside to draw the attention of Pac-10 recruiters and an offer from Hawaii.
But "The Manchild" is the perfect leader for the Mules because he represents both cultural sides of Leilehua football.
His father, Kimo, grew up in Wahiawa and played at Leilehua before joining the Air Force. Andrew was born at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., home of Eglin Air Force Base (also the birthplace of Jason Elam). He grew up in Germany, Oklahoma, Japan and Alaska before Kimo retired and the family returned to Hawaii a couple of years ago.
Leilehua is about one-third military dependents, which means plenty of transition. "When I see new kids, I go up to them and introduce myself," Manley says. "I know how they feel."
He's been around the world, but he's completely local. Manley's equally at home with barbecue at Molly's and loco moco at Dot's.
"He's a great leader because he doesn't put himself above anyone else," says receiver Edieson Dumlao.
The melding of local country kids whose families have been here several generations and military transfers hasn't always gone smoothly in the Leilehua corridors (or other schools with such a blend). But on the football field, it often does, with tremendous results.
Tokuda's got something special now, and it starts with Manley.
"He doesn't act like a star, and when your leader is as humble as he is, it makes it so much easier to develop the ohana," says Tokuda, a former Aiea quarterback who throws 110 passes each practice alongside Manley.
"I tell him if I were a senior, he'd be the tallest (6-foot-3) backup quarterback in the state," says Tokuda, who is 5-6. "He tells me I wouldn't be able to carry his bag. It's all fun. Because of these kids, I'm 36 going on 17."