- Associated Press - Monday, October 17, 2016

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - MacArthur’s Polynesian pipeline has become a major part of the football program in recent years.

It seems every season the Highlanders have a key player or two from that part of the world. This year, those two are Kalani Ladorre and Cedric Havea.

“They’re just so good to be around, so respectful, good personality, always smiling,” Mac head coach Brett Manning said of Ladorre and Havea. “That’s been my experience with all of our Polynesian guys that we’ve had. They’re a lot of fun to be around and good people to be on our team.”

Cedric Havea didn’t just suffer one of the more serious sports injuries there is, a dislocated hip, back in 2010. It went unnoticed for about two years.

The Lawton Constitution (https://bit.ly/2dlGrAc ) reports that Havea, a native of Tonga, injured his hip playing rugby and began noticing pain, but didn’t think it was as serious as it would turn out to be.



“Thought I could walk it off,” he said.

He did for a while, but it didn’t go away. His grandmother eventually decided something was definitely very wrong and Havea went to the United States in 2012 to have a surgery.

Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go well. After returning to Tonga, it was apparent that more operations were necessary and he came back to the United States in September of last year.

The next surgery went well and he was medically cleared to play football early 2016.

But he’d never played football before because everyone plays rugby in Tonga. Despite that, Manning allowed Havea to essentially be a part of the team last season even though there was no chance of him playing yet.

“Coach Manning was very generous in letting me go to the games,” Havea said. “That made me feel really good because even though he had never seen me play, he had never seen anything of me playing football, he just let me go with the team. I found that very cool. I really liked that.”

Havea’s injury was just the beginning of his challenging transition to the U.S. Academically he was behind, and he also had to practice his English.

“It was different because in Tonga, the school system is behind,” Havea said. “I was actually in 10th grade when I came here (in 2012), they put me in 8th grade because I was way behind in speaking English, history, math.

“For me, speaking-wise, I watched a lot of TV. On the island, they taught me the essentials.”

Another thing to ease the transition was spending time with fellow Samoans from last year’s team, T.J. Fiailoa and Faautuga Autele.

“Me and T.J., when I first came here, coach Manning told him, ‘Hey, there’s this new Samoan kid, I want you guys to welcome him.’ So he came up to me and (Autele), when I started talking to them, they became like family,” Havea said. “We did everything together. . That made everything a lot easier. If it wasn’t for them, I’m pretty sure I’d be antisocial and keep to myself.”

Havea has transitioned well and this season is helping bolster Mac’s offensive line. He’s the backup left tackle and helps protect a lot on extra points.

Havea enjoys the position.

“I like it,” he said. “I’m not as fast as I would like to be. I believe that offensive line gives me more of a purpose because you have to protect something.”

Havea loves being a part of the program. He had to overcome a lot, not just a brutal injury but transitioning into a new culture as well. Football has made it all worthwhile.

“When I came here and I was introduced to football, it made me feel involved,” he said. “The football program here is like family.”

Mac might not have a player better suited for his role than Kalani Ladorre. Just hear what he has to say when describing his job on the kickoff team.

“I just try to knock some heads,” he said before practice Monday.

That’s about what any coach wants from their guys flying down the field on kickoffs. Ladorre has grown to love it.

“I really like special teams,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I was bummed because I wasn’t starting on defense. But then when I got out there on special teams and I got to hit people, I was fine. Honestly, if I don’t get to play on defense, I’m completely fine with it. As long as I get some special teams.”

The only issue Ladorre says he has is that he likes to hit players too much. The coaching staff is working on him to go around players to make tackles instead of through them.

That energy is ideal for special teams but Ladorre showed off a softer side during Mac’s thrilling 24-21 overtime win at Del City last week. When Sam Smith’s game-winning field goal went through the uprights, Ladorre wasn’t one of the Highlanders rushing onto the field.

“It was just amazing,” he said. “Honestly, I saw everyone up on their feet but I was down on one knee praying.”

Ladorre went to prayer because this season means so much to him. He was a part of last year’s team that won its first 11 games before being upset by Collinsville in the state quarterfinals.

Ladorre says he’d do anything to help the Highlanders get past that stage this year and bring home a Gold Ball.

“That’s the goal (to win a state title),” he said. “The goal for me anyways. If I get state, I’ll have a ring. And if I have a ring, when I’m older, I’ll look back, look at the ring, and I’ll remember that year when I won state.”

Looking back at his time in Lawton fondly is something Ladorre didn’t exactly expect when he moved here two years ago.

After spending his entire life in Hawaii, his parents thought it would be good for Ladorre to live in the United States like his other siblings got to experience. With an uncle living in Lawton, Mac became his landing spot.

“The culture shock was crazy,” Ladorre said. “When I first came up here, I didn’t understand what anyone was saying. All these ‘y’alls’ and I was like, what does that mean? But I slowly adjusted.”

Ladorre originally planned to only stay a year and then return to Hawaii but now he’s glad to be finishing his high school career at MacArthur.

“I think that it’s good that I came here and stayed,” he said. “It’s fun, but I don’t want to live here forever.”

Ladorre isn’t sure where he wants to go next, but is hoping to join the Air Force after high school.

___

Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com

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