Ewa Beach Sabers’ Manoa Hallums earns MVP honor at Bret Cooper Jr. Academic All-American Bowl

T’nias Tavale, second from left, and Ewa Beach Sabers teammate Manoa Hallums, third from left, endured frigid conditions and thrived at the Bret Cooper Junior Academic All-American Bowl. At left is Jolynn Tavale, and at right is Mike Tavale. Photo courtesy of T’nias Tavale.

The conditions were frigid and bleak on a cold Texas afternoon, but Manoa Hallums ran with a fire in his spirit.

The Campbell freshman overcame the obstacles, even moving from slot receiver to running back, to earn John Madden MVP honors as the Blue squad outlasted the Grey, 12-6, in the Bret Cooper Junior Academic All-American Bowl at DeSoto High School. Hallums rushed for 80 yards as both offenses struggled in the wind and rain before the contest was called at the end of the third quarter. The 15-under game was the third and final battle of the day.

His Ewa Beach Sabers teammate, defensive end/right guard T’nias Tavale, was presented the Vai Sikahema Award. The game was streamed on Facebook Live.

Temperatures were in the 30s, not counting wind chill, that day. Quite a difference for Hallums and Tavale, who regularly practiced in 80-degree temps for the Ewa Beach Sabers.

“That was fun. It was different. I just had to adapt to playing that position. Football is football. That was my first time playing running back in a game setting. I got some reps at practice when I was with the Sabers last year, but it never got past that,” Hallums said. “It was very hard to perform at my best. I had a pretty good game, but the circumstances, ooh, I don’t like playing in that weather. I was still able to cut. I wasn’t slipping or anything like that.”

The synthetic turf was nearly frozen solid. Neither team could sustain any kind of a passing game, so the onus was on Hallums and his offensive line. The trench men up front included Tavale, a defensive end who doubled at right guard.

“It started off with a freezing day. I think the temperature was 35 and it was raining and windy. We were outside. No heaters. Cold turf burns,” Tavale said. “I started both ways because a lot of the players that said they were going to play weren’t there. The last time I played offense was JPS football in March, right before COVID.”

After traveling thousands of miles for a chance to play in a football game for the first time in nearly a year, Tavale and Hallums could not be denied.

“We were prepared,” said Hallums, a compact 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. “That was my first time in Texas. It was a real simple playbook, probably had 10 to 15 plays.”

The two old friends left Oahu on Christmas Day and arrived in time for the first event workout the next day. The game was played on New Year’s Eve.

“As soon as I got there, I went with the receivers and slots,” Hallums said. “So many guys. We had about eight receivers. We didn’t have any running backs. To me, it was, where can I go to get my exposure? Bret Cooper was talking to my dad about me playing running back, so I gave it a shot.”

The contest was a defensive struggle, and a battle against the elements.

“No one caught any passes. It was hard. Our quarterbacks couldn’t throw the ball. Snaps were messed up,” Hallums said.

And yet, the Ewa Beach boys adjust to conditions that were 50 degrees colder than they’re used to. Later, players attended the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.

If Hallums’ name sounds familiar, his uncle is David Kawika Hallums, former Hawaii basketball standout and two-sport star from Pearl City — and one-time Chargers football coach, and currently a TV basketball analyst for UH games. His cousin is former Star-Advertiser girls volleyball all-state player of the year Tiyana Hallums.

“My younger cousin, KJ (Hallums), he’s at Punahou,” he added. “He’s going to be something.”

Hallums has a 3.85 grade-point average after one semester at Mililani. Before the Oahu Interscholastic Association football season was cancelled, he was prepared to play for the Trojans’ varsity squad.

Tavale, a freshman at Campbell, has a 3.0 GPA so far. His first name is something that has baffled everyone in his circle. Almost everyone.

“I had this one teacher back in the fifth grade who figured it out. ‘Oh, your name is saint (spelled) backwards.’ My parents just wanted a creative name. I have three older sisters whose names all start with ’T’.”

Going to Texas, he said, was pure coincidence.

“My friend’s dad, Manoa’s dad (Kalani Hallums), we heard about it from Coach Frank (Lacaden). They tried to have his son play, and they allow you to (nominate) other players,” Tavale said. “We were expecting a lot because Texas football is supposed to be so big, but football is football. It was nice to see the diversity among the players. Over here, you know everybody else, everybody’s names. It was nice to see new faces up there.”

The 5-10, 250-pound lineman wasn’t used to seeing other ninth graders tower over him. That didn’t stop him from making a sack as a D-end.

“A lot of the people there have size. They look like they’re adults, 6-2 plus. I was one of the shortest linemen on the 15U. There’s some athletes out there, no doubt,” he said. “I had one sack. It was pretty good. The quarterback fumbled the ball and his hand warmers fell off. Everybody had hand warmers, but they were all soaked. It was like putting your hands in ice-cold towels. I was happy playing both ways.”

The Vai Sikahema Award was presented before the bowl game.

“It’s how you are as a player, how you respond with coaches, absorb knowledge,” Tavale said. “As a player, I thought I was pretty average, but from what the coach said, they thought I was outstanding.”

By the end of the third quarter, there was no choice but to call the game off.

“Everybody’s bodies were getting worse. Everybody’s hands and feet were numb,” Tavale said, noting that the metal benches were ice-cold. “I don’t think anybody sat down.”

For all their time together as Ewa Beach Sabers, the unique circumstances didn’t lead to Hallums running behind Tavale much, if at all.

“Our offense was a pretty basic scheme, pass heavy,” Tavale said. “Then because of the rain, we ran more. We had pulling plays, but we didn’t use them. It was mostly inside zone and outside zone. Manoa’s a pretty good running back. We were trying to convince the coach to let him run behind me. Every run behind me went for plus yards.”

For Hallums, working out is a way of life. His max on the bench press is 275 pounds. He also has a max squat of 315 and max dead lift of 315.

Long hauls are embedded in his core. In eighth grade, he and Tavale transferred to Kamalani Academy in Wahiawa Heights. That meant their day began well before sunrise.

“I used to catch the bus to Wahiawa for school,” Hallums said. “If I’m going to work out work out, I’d wake up at 3:40 in the morning, catch the bus (from Ewa) to Pearl City 24-Hour Fitness and meet my dad there by 5 o’clock. Then I’d shower and catch the bus to Wahiawa. It was worth it. That’s what I’m going to have to do if, hopefully, I play college football. I have to get used to getting up early and preparing as an athlete. It’s not hard to get up. I make sure I set five alarms.”

Hallums and Tavale sometimes caught the bus home from Wahiawa. For bus riders keeping score, that’s a No. 42 Waikiki Beach & Hotels route from Ewa to Pearl City, then a No. 51 Wahiawa Heights route from Pearl City. Hallums sometimes napped on the ride to school.

“I would sleep on that route, set my alarm to vibrate,” he said.

Back then, before the COVID-19 pandemic, he and Tavale would bus it back to Ewa after school in time for practice with the Sabers at Asing Park.

“The park is five minutes from my house. I tried to sneak in a nap if I could, but usually not,” he said. “It’s super easy to look up (bus routes and times). We both got TheBus app.”

Pretty impressive for a pair of young student-athletes just starting high school. Hallums gets his motivation from his family.

“My older brother, Micah, caught the bus from Ewa to Saint Louis,” Hallums said. “He was really my inspiration and set the way for me. The hardest-working person I’ve ever seen. He’s at BYU, majoring in business/finance. He walked on the football team playing corner, but he went to service his mission for our church. He came back because of COVID and all that. He was six months in. He’s back in school in Provo.”

Hallums is fully aware of the current efforts of Chad Owens and Safe Sports 808 to revive high school football for the current school year.

“I really hope there is a season, but we’re in a pandemic and there’s a lot more important things going on. Season or not, I’m going to keep working hard in the classroom and weight room. I’m going to maintain what I’m doing. I’m working out strictly on my own, but from March until recently I was doing sessions with Kenny Patton via Zoom,” he said.

Tavale, like many players this winter, is focused on his 7v7 team

“I’m just waiting on word for how Pylon is going to be. I’m playing with a team called Godfidence. Titus (Mokiao-Atimalala’s) dad is the coach for that team. Titus is my cousin,” Tavale said.

Lockdown staples

Manoa Hallums

Top 3 movies/shows

1. All-American.

2. Star Wars. “All of them. We’ve binge-ing all of them.”

3. The Office.

Top 3 food/snack/drink

1. Spicy ahi poke bowl, Foodland (Pearl City).

2. Korean fried chicken, Zippy’s (Ewa).

3. Watermelon sour patch.

Top 3 music artists

1. Polo G. “Dying Breed.”

2. SZA. “Broken Clocks.”

3. Lil Baby. “Close Friends.”

New life skill

“Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve just been in the weight room. I was at 24-Hour Fitness and when that shut down, I’ve been able to go to my Uncle Lucky (Muyot’s) house.”

Shout outs
“To Coach Kenny Patton. I wouldn’t be as fast or quick as I am without him. He really got me right. Shout out to my boxing coach, Kaipo Midro (of Midro’s Den). My Uncle Kawika (Hallums) has been helping me with college coaches. Definitely, my mom (Terry Hallums) and dad. Coach Frank Lacaden for nominating me for this opportunity.”

Lockdown staples

T’nias Tavale

Top 3 movies/shows

1. “The Office.”

2. “Naruto.”

Top 3 food/snack/drink

1. Fried chicken, Jollibee’s.

2. Palusami. “My grandma (Iutita Tavale) makes it. She makes it for special occasions. Her sapasui is good, too. I like that more than her palusami.”

3. “I got to go with my dad’s fried noodles.”

New life skill

“I learned how to play the ukulele better. I learned from my uncle (Josiah Pagaduan). And from listening to Kapena.”

Shout outs
“My church, Moanalua Samoan Full Gospel. Mom (Jolynn Tavale) and dad and my grandma. Phase 1. I train with them. They keep you in shape, always lifting. And shout out to Kalani Hallums.”


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