Kaonohi Kaniho is preparing for the final game of his high school career. He and his Kahuku Red Raiders teammates have Saint Louis left on the schedule on Black Friday.
It’s the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Football State Championships — otherwise known as the BIG ONE — and the North Shore boys are going in as major underdogs.
“To win, we need to dominate all three phases of the game,” said Kaniho, a four-year starter at cornerback.
The Crusaders (11-0) have won 37 games in a row and are No. 6 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings.
Next fall, Kaniho will be suiting up for Boise State, where his brother Kekaula Kaniho — a former Kahuku standout cornerback — is a junior starting nickel back.
Kaniho is constantly learning more about the game, whether he’s getting information from his dad, Jarrett, Kahuku head coach Sterling Carvalho, the coaches at Boise State when he went on his official visit, or from one of the Kahuku defensive backs coaches like Keala Santiago.
“They are both great athletes and students of the game and you can tell that they’re students of the game,” Carvalho said about Kaonohi and Kekaula.
Added Kaonohi: “My dad’s big teaching point is that if teams throw away from me, I can’t take a play off. If they go toward me, I’ve gotta make the play. Always play like they’re coming at me.”
On Santiago — who is a former Kahuku star safety — Kaniho said, “Through my four years, he has taught me how to be a better person and to always work hard. Don’t take any days off and outwork everyone who you’re competing with.”
Kaniho has learned valuable lessons in other areas of life as well. He and his girlfriend Raita are the parents of a 10-month-old girl, Teavana.
“He now has to work twice as hard as a student and a football player and a dad,” Carvalho said. “How successful he’s been shows what type of man he is.”
And then there’s the time when Kaniho and some other team leaders caused a bit of trouble during summer camp and paid the price.
“We had to bear crawl the upper field at night for about an hour,” he said. “We learned our lesson.”
According to Carvalho, the offenders threw some food on the floor, knowing it wasn’t their turn to clean up.
“It’s tough to do a half-mile bear crawl,” the coach said. “It shows the discipline we expect from the kids and the integrity of the program that we will not compromise. The integrity has got to be intact — from the starters to the last string. We are one program, top to bottom.”