As the early morning darkness and the chill of the Pacific Ocean connect over the campus of the Army and Navy Academy, Ratumana “ Mana ” Bulabaluva is beginning his day. While most of his peers are experiencing the daily life of civilian high school life, the 6-2, 250 lb junior is immersed in the structure, senses, and duties of living in a military boarding school.
As reveille signifies the official beginning of the day, Mana locks into his purpose: to be the best student and football player in the county. With his family hundreds of miles away in Stockton, CA, Mana steps into a world of independence and structure that many high school students may not experience until adulthood.
Inaugurating himself in the trenches at the early age of 8 for the Bay area’s Union City Colts, the future Polynesian game changer was developing his love and a humble respect for the game.
As most kids colliding on the football field on Saturdays, he also was absorbing inspiration from the elites of the gridiron. “ Being a defensive player and of Polynesian descent, I looked up to Troy Polamalu like any young Polynesian player, also Vita Vea as well as other non Polynesian players like Maxx Crosby, “ says Mana.
With relatives located in the North County, the teenager Mana navigated his way to the Academy during the Covid Pandemic in his freshman year. The following year with the residue of a lost season in his veins, he did not hesitate to let people know that you can’t define a player by the size of their school. The defensive lineman proceeded to dominate his opponents by recording 18 sacks, 75 tackles, and 7 TFL’s during his sophomore season.
At that point, it was obvious that Mana’s mindset matched his efforts on the field. Always first off the line, he simply turned or ran through offensive lineman. “My aggression, pure will, and enjoyment in competing with who’s across from me, describes my game very well. I love winning the battle against the guy in front of me,” expresses Mana.
With momentum glistening off his sophomore season, he continued to obliterated traditional stats during his junior season by amassing a devastating 23.5 sacks, 108 tackles (64 solo ), and 30 TFL’s, while adding the Sunset League Defensive Player of the year honors and making the All-CIF 2nd Team to his stellar resume.
With the past season a memory and the off season in full motion, Mana is training and hitting the weights with consistency. The results have paid dividends, augmenting an already Division-1 frame with increased strength and agility.
Along with football excellence, Mana also understands the importance of character and academics, which has contributed to his recent acquisition of several D-1 offers (Arizona, Arizona St. Utah, Washington, Cal, Colorado St.) this season. “My character and academic level, as well as the way I think, would complement their programs very well, “states Mana.
While It has been 44 years since the Warrior’s celebrated a section football championship, they made a run in 2022 going 9-2 ( 3-0 1st in Sunset League ) that concluded with a heartbreaking loss to Mar Vista 40-35 in the 2nd round of the D-V CIF playoffs.
Yet, regardless of not capturing a championship in 2022, Mana has set-forth selfless goals for the 2023 season. “I want to bring more attention to my school by being the biggest positive impact I can be and affecting all of my teammates’ lives positively,” explains Mana. “ …hopefully getting attention towards them and getting them even more collegiate options and success than me.”
With contenders as La Jolla Country Day and Santa Fe Christian marked on his calendar and with the 2023 season seemingly on the distant horizon, this Warrior looks forward to getting back to his normal game day routine next season. This might include listening to a little Mozzy, going to Handel’s, or getting in some laughs with his teammates. However, until then, he has some duties to take care of at the Army and Navy Academy.