Te'o, Funaki top voting of readers
Kahuku's Livai selected as coach for leading Red Raiders to four state titles
Who were the state's best high school football players the past decade?
Online readers decided that quarterback Inoke Funaki (Kahuku '02) and linebacker Manti Te'o (Punahou '09) are the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Decade in a non-scientific poll that started Thursday.
The two lead The Advertiser's first All-Decade high school football team. The players picked from all-state selections from 2000 to 2009.
A majority of the selections were either multiple-year picks or Offensive or Defensive Players of the Year. But we left the readers to pick the top offensive and defensive players. In some cases, post-high school success was a factor.
Eleven different Players of the Year and several multi-year selections didn't make the cut.
We picked Siuaki Livai as Coach of the Decade. The former Kahuku coach won four of the school's five state titles during the 10-year span.
We chose Funaki, former Saint Louis quarterback Micah Mamiya and Leilehua quarterback Andrew Manley as finalists for voting as Offensive Player of the Decade. Mamiya and Manley are the only two-time Offensive Players of the Year in the decade. Funaki also was a two-time first-team pick, but was Offensive Player of the Year only once ('01). But he's the only one of the trio to lead his team to two state titles.
Perhaps because he did it early in the decade, not many remember that Funaki passed for 2,446 yards and 29 touchdowns his senior year. He also rushed for 548 yards and eight TDs.
Mamiya, now of Montana Western, accounted for 37 TDs in his best season (2007), passing for 27 and rushing for 10, while throwing for 2,267 yards.
Manley, who has verbally committed to New Mexico State, twice passed for more than 3,000 yards and combined for 35 TDs (31 passing, four rushing) in his best season (2008). His career was like a storybook because he was promoted from the JV to the varsity in the middle of the playoffs his sophomore year when Leilehua's dual-starting quarterbacks were injured in the same game. Manley would lead the Mules to the O'ahu Interscholastic Association and state title in 2007.
The Defensive Player candidates came down to two linebackers. Te'o is the most decorated high school player to come out of Hawai'i. He is the only USA Today national Defensive Player of the Year (2008) from here and the first recipient of the prep version of the Dick Butkus Award for being the best linebacker.
Blaze Soares is the only three-time first-team all-state selection during the decade ('02 to '04).
state of the game
The last decade might have been the most volatile in Hawai'i high school football or any other since the 1970s, when that decade began with the public schools seceding from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
After watching most of the 1980s and the entire 1990s dominated by Saint Louis, the 2000s crowned five different teams as state champions. But it is public school Kahuku wearing five of the crowns the past decade.
That doesn't necessarily mean the public schools are achieving parity with the private schools. It just means Kahuku has caught up with the ILH's level of play; the Red Raiders' eight wins against the ILH this decade leads all OIA teams.
The ILH as a whole still dominates head-to-head competition against the rest of the state with a 200-143-3 record in interleague play. The ILH has a winning record against the OIA, Kaua'i Interscholastic Federation, Big Island Interscholastic Federation, Maui Interscholastic League, as well as against Mainland/foreign teams.
During the past decade, six programs joined varsity football, while one dropped the sport (St. Anthony/Pac-Three) and another stopped play for two seasons (Ka'ū). It was the largest expansion since the 1970s, when five schools joined the OIA.
Although the OIA began classifying teams by strength since 1992, the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association introduced Division II for football state tournaments in 2003.