COUNTDOWN: Healthy Kaonohi Kaniho makes big difference for No. 5 Kahuku

Kahuku's Kaonohi Kaniho had his season cut short last year with a knee injury. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Kahuku is eager to put the 2018 season behind it.

The 7-5 Red Raiders were hit hard by the injury bug, preventing them from playing to their full potential in year one of Open Division play in the OIA-ILH football alliance.

This year’s Kahuku squad returns plenty of talent and is ranked No. 5 in the Star-Advertiser preseason poll. The preview story from Monday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser can be read by clicking here.

Among the players hungry to get back on the field is Kaonohi Kaniho, who as a sophomore was a Star-Advertiser All-State first-team selection at cornerback. His junior season was cut short when he tore his PCL in a 30-14 loss to Saint Louis on Sept. 7.

“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “Recruiting kind of slowed down too after last year’s injury, a lot of coaches questioning whether I’m going to be healthy or not. The goal this year is to just stay healthy and play all games including playoffs.”

Kaniho currently holds offers from Hawaii and Boise State, where older brother and 2016 All-State Defensive Player of the Year Kekaula Kaniho is preparing for his junior season.

Kekaula Kaniho projects to start at safety for the Broncos and has shown plenty of his big-play ability that made him a star at Kahuku, scoring three touchdowns, picking off three passes with a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries during his college career so far.

“It’s been really cool. It kind of tells me that we can do it and go the next level and succeed at the next level,” the younger Kaniho said. “I pick his brain too, ask him a bunch of questions about what they’re doing up there that can help me out here to better improve my game and me as a person.”

Kaonohi Kaniho was asked to play both ways for Kahuku as a sophomore, catching six passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns, including a 59-yard score that gave the Red Raiders a 28-24 lead over Saint Louis in the 2017 state title game before the Crusaders prevailed 31-28. He also had a team-high nine tackles that night.

“Wherever the coaches need me, I’ll play,” Kaniho said. “I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to get the Koa again.”

Linebacker Miki Ah You, offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, and defensive back Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu were just some of the players the Red Raiders were without for large chunks of the season.

Ah You and Vimahi are both college freshmen now, with Ah You at Washington and Vimahi at Ohio State. Along with Kaniho, Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho says Mana and Kana Fonoimoana-Vaomu, along with safety/linebacker Ace Kaufusi, will be the senior leaders for Kahuku’s defense this season.

Mana and Kana, despite being a year apart in age, are both seniors. Both are also committed to playing college ball for Navy. Kaufusi has offers from Utah, Utah State and BYU.

Kaniho said he is “not really thinking about that right now. Everything else will fall into place once I get myself together. Just focused on getting back on the field and playing every single game as good as I can be.”

On offense, Carvalho expects senior lineman Micah Soliai Howlett to be the anchor of the unit. Last month, Soliai Howlett committed to Arizona State over seven other FBS offers.

“I really wanted to play in the Pac-12,” he said. “Coach (Kevin) Mawae is a really good coach and he’s about to be in the Hall of Fame. I just wanted to be coached by him.

“(Committing) just lets me worry about the season, not about getting recruited. Just getting better as a team, too. We’re just hungry to play. We want to win games.”

Kahuku offensive lineman Micah Soliai Howlett (75) and linebacker Ace Kaufusi (4) locked up during linemen drills during a summer practice. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

In addition to its second year of Open Division competition, Kahuku will travel to the mainland to take on Timpview (Utah) on Sept. 6. The team will also tour the University of Utah and watch the Utes play Northern Illinois on Sept 7. Bradlee Anae, Keala Santiago and Malik Haynes are all Kahuku alumni on the Utes’ roster.

“We have some things planned for the boys. We talked about this as an opportunity not just to play an out-of-state team, but also use this trip for team bonding to get closer together, to provide educational opportunities that we have for them up there, to open their eyes to some colleges we’re gonna go and visit,” Carvalho said. “We have some things planned for them and that’s want we want. We want the kids not just to play the game of football on the field, but to see what’s out there after high school.”

Timpview figures to be a formidable challenge for the Red Raiders, but Carvalho says his squad can’t afford to look ahead.

“Right now, we take each opponent a week at a time. In this OIA/ILH divisional conference, you gotta take it one team at a time,” Carvalho said. “We’re not looking straight forward to Timpview in four or five weeks, we gotta worry about Kamehameha (season opener on Aug. 10), that’s what we have to take care of first.”


  1. HailFromDaNorth July 29, 2019 7:19 am

    I’m telling you guys! Don’t sleep on them red raiders! You can never count them out! #RR4L

  2. notes July 29, 2019 8:02 am

    kahuku should be ranked WAY WAY WAY higher than #5 but you know what? it’s okay. with the media bias against public schools and the hatred for kahuku by the general public, we know that up in the north shore, we was born hated. We know we’re enemies of the state. but it’s okay because our boys are gonna work hard and prove all the haters wrong year after year after year. See you haters when we raise the koa! RRFL!

  3. HLI July 29, 2019 10:28 am

    Pre-season P.O.L.L , POLO.

  4. Cryhyn July 29, 2019 12:28 pm

    Mililani and Campbell can recruit all they want, but the homeboys are Kahuku. Look at Mililani. Up to 10 new recruits that are jr.or seniors. Not even the ILH allows “immediate”play. Put a 1 year sit rule like the ILH and watch the recruiting drop. Poor oriental kids that live in Mililani now force to play at D1 Pearl City. Why should BIG poly kids go play at Mil.when Farrington has an Open program? In fact Farrington is the only Open team in all of Honolulu. Remember when Leileihua was always a top team? If fact they beat StL. in States. Well after recruiting from neighbor Mil., they are now a lower tier team. Shame.

  5. rrforlifebaby July 29, 2019 2:03 pm

    5 is good. All that matters is the end of the season rank. Stay hungry boys…you can either prove people right, or get at it and prove people wrong. All 4 schools above you have tons of talent, just stay humble and get to work!!

  6. Austin Chang July 29, 2019 2:07 pm

    Who there QB I just wanna know

  7. Objective July 29, 2019 2:57 pm

    Get a grip Cliff’s Notes, three of the other schools ranked above Kahukua are also from the OIA (Mililani, Kapolei and Campbell) Punahou may have the 2nd best offense in the State and St. Louis is clearly #1 in the 808. Tell us, who is Kahuku “Way Way Way” better than this year without contradicting your public school bias theory?

  8. ??? July 29, 2019 3:02 pm

    Kaniho & Gilman (Punahou) states two best CB’s!

  9. Respect The Mauna July 29, 2019 3:03 pm

    When you have 2 or 3 QBs you really have none. Kahuku still no can pass. Tough defense will keep them in games but offense will continue to trudge along with their one dimensional running attack.

  10. Correction July 29, 2019 3:11 pm

    I believe Gilman plays safety.

  11. KalihiFB July 29, 2019 3:56 pm

    Red Raider have a lot a talent and pride. Just gotta to stay healthy with no injuries. #5 may be a good thing for now. The team just gotta keep climbing up every week and not look to far ahead. One game at a time! Open division will always be tough.

  12. Coach C July 29, 2019 6:50 pm

    The two OIA teams in front of Kahuku ,Mililani and Campbell did some heavy recruiting. Make like the ILH, transfers sit 1 year. Kali hi has Open team Farrington. No reason for the poly going to mililani. Now neighborhood mililani kids gotta transfer to Pearl City to play.

  13. ??? July 30, 2019 7:41 am

    Best DB’s along with Poki’i from Campbell

  14. Ugly Olos July 30, 2019 8:25 am

    OIA I like know who stay from Laie, Hauula and Kaawa that play fo Stl or Iolani? Iolani’s Fada Bray gave you guys yo name and unis back in da day!

  15. What July 30, 2019 8:36 am

    @Stink Olos… Mine your own business.

    Kahuku is Kahuku, without kids that decide to go elsewhere.

  16. 8082702 July 30, 2019 9:26 am

    Kahuku has a lot to prove this year. The injuries and off-field adversities they endured last year was tough on them physically, mentally, and emotionally. People were critical and said that that was an excuse for the season they had. There were some glaring shortcomings especially on the offensive side. Defensively , adjustments had to be made when key players got hurt. This year, the defense will need to be their strength until the offense comes around.

  17. Everything Closed on Sundays July 30, 2019 12:58 pm

    here we go again crybabies lol. Why is it, that all you see on these posts is Red Crybabies.
    Kahuku recruits just as heavily also. FAMILY MEMBERS from other states and locations move in with them. Yes thats also recruiting lol. The Red make like they are supposed to be on top of the world lol. When they losing they cry cry cry, when they winning , here comes all the band wagon people claiming Kahuku lol. Its a joke. Until they fix their offense, they will always be this way. As good as a football program as they supposed to be, the offense still looks like pop warner year in year out. But until then, just keep crying.

  18. What July 30, 2019 2:28 pm

    @Closed. It’s actually the other way around. Haters can’t just go read their own schools articles they lurk on Kahuku articles with the hopes of responding… like come on here and say that Kahuku recruits. Offense bad. They are one of the top teams in the state year in and year old.

  19. Ugly Olos July 31, 2019 7:46 am

    “What” or “Notes” stop whining. Kahuku ranked 5th pre-season is perfect they can prove people wrong without the pressure and hype and no body is stealing your players. There’s way way way better players in KPT and Mayor Wright, Palolo, etc who’s parents won’t complain about the long trip between NS and town. Everything Closed on Sundays is right, RR been recruiting “Mormons” from Utah, Calif, American and Western Samoa for decades. Stick with “What” you know, modern dance and women’s fashion.

  20. Matuu Pulotu August 1, 2019 2:09 pm

    Everybody recruits…thats just the way it has become in a competitive world of sports. No matter the level, state or sport. OIA shouldnt be able to compete with ILH talent wise (in any sport) because of the opportunities that are afforded “student athletes” that attend private institutions of learning vs the questionable education you get at a public school and the chance of getting noticed by College coaches.
    Since Kahuku beat STLouis in 2001 the High School Football world changed from whos playing for next best because STLouis was in their own world. It looks as if they are starting to create that again as many of the talented kids look for “greener pastures” elsewhere in and out of state. We all get heated in the cheering of our teams and get caught up in our pride and forget about the ones putting their bodies on the line and say or even do “stupid” things that impact them.
    Fans in Hawaii (especially HS sports) need to cheer more and stop being critical of the players as if they are full grown adults and should be playing mistake free. These kids are our future and we need to be better examples of what they need to be like and what not to become.
    Good luck to all teams, players and coaches. Referees call it fair and lets have a great football season. GO BIG RED!

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