Ma’ne Manaea is taking on an expanded role for the Lakes football team this season. After starting at outside linebacker last season, the junior will add slot receiver and punt return duties to his Friday night checklist.
With so much for Manaea to do, Lancers coach Dave Miller is left with a worry.
“My only concern,” he said, “is we might need oxygen because we’re getting the ball to him a lot and he’s breaking long plays.”
The first part of the comment was made in jest, of course, but Miller is serious about the latter. He expects the wiry 5-foot-11, 180-pound Manaea to be the latest in a long line of Lakes playmakers.
“He’s a weapon,” Miller said. “He’s really got great speed, you can see his explosiveness.”
Quarterback Cedric Dozier is confident in his newest go-to receiver.
“He’s great, he’s phenomenal,” Dozier said. “He goes hard every play and his hands are good.”
Catching passes isn’t new to Manaea. He played receiver for eight years with the Lakewood Lumberjacks youth team.
But the Lancers didn’t need him on offense last season. With a backfield full of experienced running backs and a dominant offensive line, Lakes’ ground game pounded away on defenses and rarely threw.
That allowed Manaea to keep his focus on one area – defense – and not become overwhelmed, which can easily happen to a sophomore. Manaea said it wasn’t until halfway through the regular season that he felt at ease on the field.
“Toward the middle of the season, against Enumclaw, I knew what I was supposed to do,” he said. “I knew how it felt to come out there and just play the game.”
Manaea shined in that contest. He intercepted a pass and helped the Lancers rally from a halftime deficit to beat the Hornets, 35-14.
With a year of experience, Miller said he believes Manaea is ready to contribute in all areas this season.
“He’s a football player,” Miller said, “and ready to play the whole game now.”
Manaea’s offensive contributions won’t be limited to those of a traditional receiver. The Lancers will find ways to get him the ball.
“In our offense, he’s going to be running fly sweep, not just catching the ball,” he said. “We’re going to hand it to him a bunch, too.”
Manaea is thrilled at the opportunity to play both ways.
“It gives me a chance to show my stuff, run my routes, catch the ball,” he said. “I get to run the ball, too. I’m just trying to help out the team.”
As one of four returning starters – Dozier and linemen Zach Banner and Eddie Releford are the others – Manaea acknowledges that the Lancers are still learning. But don’t expect Lakes to be unprepared.
“These two-a-days are helping us a lot,” he said. “Coaches are really getting to the players, showing them how we do everything. The starters that came back, we just go and show everybody how it’s done.”
At Lakes, that means another trip to the playoffs.