Former waterboy Kainoa Carvalho makes title-game dream come true for Kahuku

Another stellar performance by Kahuku's placekicker/punter/wide receiver/running back/kick returner Kainoa Carvalho makes him a most valued utility. He scored two touchdowns on passes from Jason Mariteragi and made all seven PAT kicks in Kahuku's 49-14 win over Saint Louis on Thursday for the Open Division state title. Paul Honda/

In every possible environment, Kainoa Carvalho has stepped up.

Placekicker. Kick returner. Wide receiver. Even a little running back. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound playmaker bided his time as Kahuku used defense and special teams to take an early lead over Saint Louis. When the Crusaders changed its look in the second half, Carvalho got single coverage and wound up in the end zone twice. He finished with six receptions for 135 yards and two TDs. He sent three wind-aided kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks and returned a Saint Louis kickoff 31 yards. Oh, he nailed all seven extra-point kicks, to boot.

The first TD began with Carvalho at wide receiver. He went in to motion and lined up as a running back next to quarterback Jason Mariteragi, who looked right before tossing a screen pass to Carvalho. That 61-yard TD play was the perfect call at the right time, but without Carvalho’s flexibility — he actually ran the ball twice for seven yards — there wouldn’t be a heavyweight effect by Kahuku’s offense.

Kahuku’s 49-14 romp over four-time defending state champion Saint Louis for the Open Division state title is a living testament about the need to grow. Gaining balance offensively didn’t mean Kahuku needed more girth and size. Having an elite ground attack plus some of the best aerial talent in the state proved to be unstoppable for ILH champion Saint Louis.

“We kind of came out with a slow start, but we came out with win. Look at this community. It’s amazing. It’s a short week so we had to prepare really fast. We had film sessions in the mornings, practice at night and we executed our game plan perfectly,” Carvalho said.

The interesting twist is that Carvalho grew up watching a Kahuku team that mostly ran the ball with good success.

“This is a childhood dream ever since the fourth grade I was here as a water boy,” said Carvalho, son of Kahuku assistant coach Stewart Carvalho. “Now I’m living my dream, scoring two touchdowns in the state championship game, it’s everything. It’s awesome.”

His escapability, outstanding route-running skills and tremendous vision — the 16-yard fade route to the right corner required incredible balance and adjustment — make Carvalho one of the best pass catchers in the state. Jason Mariteragi’s touch and precision on a variety of different balls to Carvalho was often masterful. Carvalho has faced the best cornerbacks and won most of his battles.

“No matter who’s on me, I can catch it,” he said.

Kahuku’s 10-0 season is the first state title since 2015 and accentuates its best passing offense ever. Carvalho finished junior year with 64 catches for 1,023 yards and 10 TDs, leading Open Division pass catchers in all two categories and tying teammate Kealoha Kaio for receiving touchdowns. He also made 45 PAT kicks and two field goals while giving Kahuku advantages in kickoff and kick return duties.

The only thing that didn’t work A-plus level was a botched reverse play that ended with a fumble, recovered by Kahuku.

“Kahuku, especially coach Sterling (Carvalho), we’re big on trick plays. We practice them every day,” said Kainoa Carvalho, coach Sterling’s nephew. “\Sadly, it didn’t execute today, but our offense was explosive today.


  1. RR4L80 December 25, 2021 3:16 pm

    Awesome kid…Its been fun watching him do his thing all year..Only a Jr. so can’t wait for next year..He was definitely the teams most exciting player on offense and special teams..Gotta short time to enjoy, then back to work to defend the title..Which will be tough..Go spread your work ethic and go get it…Go Big Red..🤟🏼🤙🏼🤘🏼

  2. mjthegoat99 December 25, 2021 5:41 pm

    He is the best WR Kahuku has ever had. Wanna debate that? Cant even think who is 2nd. Hafoka from the 2001 team?

  3. Tuimanua Sapolu December 25, 2021 7:42 pm

    Best wide receiver, why not best receiver, wide or tight end. Itula Mili on the 1989 team went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks, young Mr. Carvalho has a long way to go to even equal him!

  4. 96730to89 December 25, 2021 10:11 pm

    @mj…did you mean Hafoka from ‘04 / ‘05? The dude did average over 24 yards a reception and was also electric as a returner. Put them on the same field and it would be like comparing Tyreek to a prime OBJ. You can’t go wrong with either of them as their styles are bith highly productive, but different.

  5. mjthegoat99 December 26, 2021 9:39 am

    C/O 93 Justin Young was probably the only Kahuku WR that went on to start on the college level at Oregon State. He had some good hands but no one to throw him the ball in HS.

    If Young and Hafoka had a QB like Maritaragi thowing to them, wow!

  6. WhoCares December 27, 2021 12:25 pm

    Would be nice if my team mate and fellow reciever went to Oregon state. But he went to Idaho state.

  7. mythegoat99 December 27, 2021 11:32 pm

    My apologies, forgot about Kawe Johnson, he is the best WR Kahuku has ever had.

  8. mjthegoat99 December 28, 2021 3:29 pm

    @Tuimanu Sapolu, Itula was fast for a big guy and a dominant presence on the field but he did not impact the High School game as much as Kaikai Carvalho has done this year. Who cares what happens after High school because we talking championships and Itula never delivered a state title to Kahuku.

    I just thought about Kawe Johnson from 2012-2015, if that kid was a full time WR instead of DB that played spot duty on offense he would probably have been the best WR Kahuku has ever had.

  9. I know All December 28, 2021 6:02 pm

    Iolani raiders are number one in Division I they want to play now open champions so they can show Hawaii how good they are .

  10. Tuimanua Sapolu December 29, 2021 11:36 am

    Who cares about after high school? What a player does after high school is potentially much more significant and impressive than what he did in high school, where ( at the prep football level) the competition is frequently inferior athletically and physically, and the level of technical, schematic and tactical sophistication is lower than at the intercollegiate and professional levels. Mili set a standard that Carvalho can only aspire to meet.

  11. Tuimanua Sapolu December 29, 2021 12:48 pm

    mj:”we talking championships and Itula never delivered a state title….” Correction, you are talking about winning championships, your “we” may include you and someone else but it does not limit me from excluding team success as a factor in considering the individual qualities and attributes of each player, and their accomplishments against the level of competition they faced. In Mili’s time as a prep player, there was no state title to be won. The Prep Bowl was really nothing more than an exhibition game between the two prep football league champions of Oahu. To judge Carvalho as the superior receiver in comparison to Mili based on the team’s accomplishment is to set a standard that ignores the individual qualities of each player. Was Mili less of a receiver than Carvalho because Carvalho’s team won the HHSAA tournament championship while Mili’s team lost in the Prep Bowl? Even considering that they played different positions, when comparing their pass catching, route running and blocking abilities, and disregarding their teams’ seasonal accomplishment, and only considering each player in terms of the threat each posed to an opposing defense, you have to admit that Mili in no way takes a back seat to Carvalho.

  12. 88 December 30, 2021 7:35 pm

    Bro. pay no mind to mj99 the guy is a moron..

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