The stage in Crescent Valley High’s auditorium belonged to Talanoa Hufanga.
Just hours before the Raiders’ Thursday night nonconference home game against Forest Grove, Hufanga was officially selected to the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was presented a jersey by two U.S. Army soldiers during a ceremony that lasted approximately 20 minutes before a jam-packed crowd filled with students and staff members.
Rated the nation’s No. 1 athlete by multiple publications, Hufanga is one of 100 players selected to the prestigious game, which will be held Jan. 6 in San Antonio, Texas. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wide receiver/safety has also accepted an invitation to play in the Jan. 20 Polynesian Bowl.
“I appreciate the fact that Tevita and Tanya (Hufanga’s parents) have allowed me to work with Talanoa,” CV coach Scott Sanders said to the crowd. “With everybody that pulls on him, I appreciate the fact that they come to me for guidance as to what goes in the process of recruiting, because it’s been a heck of a ride.”
Hufanga holds more than 20 Division I scholarship offers and recently trimmed his list to six finalists: USC, UCLA, Nebraska, Utah, Michigan and Oregon.
After receiving a ceremonial jersey, Hufanga thanked God, the Army and his parents, teammates, coaches and teachers for their support.
“Coming along as a freshman and playing for coach Sanders, I come in the first day and he was like ‘who are you?,’” Hufanga recalled. “And I’m just like, ‘I don’t know but I’m going to play my best.’ The coaching staff, they really took the opportunity to give me a chance to play against the best competition in the state.”
The humble Hufanga began starting midway through his freshman year and was a 5A first-team all-state selection on defense last fall. He is the front-runner to be the 2017 5A defensive player of the year.
“I know for a fact that he will not change who he is,” Sanders said. “I told every coach that came in last spring and it continues this fall: He’s a better person than he is a football player. And that speaks volumes for who he is.”