Kahuku stays true to form to get back to where it belongs

Kahuku running back Lalio Kaluna (44) helped the Red Raiders' running game grind out a win over Mililani. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The year 2017 may be too recent to evoke feelings of nostalgia, but not if you’re a follower of Kahuku football.

On Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, the Red Raiders downed Mililani 7-3 to win the OIA Open Division title, making it just two years since their last league title.

To some, that gap felt like an eternity.

“We were thinking about that this whole week, that it’s actually been a while,” said cornerback Kaonohi Kaniho, who was a sophomore on the 2017 team. “Glad to be back at the top of the OIA, but now it’s on to states.”

In order to reclaim OIA supremacy, Kahuku had to defeat a Trojans squad that’s had its number for the last two seasons with a 3-0 mark. The most recent matchup between the teams heading into Saturday was a 32-0 win for Mililani on Aug. 16.

Since then, Kahuku has gone 7-2, with its only losses coming to ILH powers Punahou and Saint Louis.

There seems to have been a correlation between Kahuku’s commitment to its throwback offense and winning ballgames. But to coach Sterling Carvalho, the biggest change went beyond the X’s and O’s.

“Our guys started to believe. They believed that they were getting better each and every week, from defense to special teams, our offense hung in there,” Carvalho said. “We made turnovers offensively (on Saturday), but our defense and special teams, they rose up and they did great.”

Kahuku’s defense was smothering Mililani all night long, holding it to 100 yards. Kaniho finished with an interception on defense to add to the Trojans’ misery.

No play was bigger than Kelsyn Tangaro-Kanoa’s 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that followed Kaulana Navares’ 24-yard field goal with 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“When I was getting the ball, all I could think was just ‘I’m going to the end zone,’” said Tangaro-Kanoa, who broke at least seven tackles on the play.

Mililani went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and punted with 5:01 remaining and all three of its timeouts. The Trojans never got the ball back.

Running back Zealand Matagi has been Kahuku’s horse in the backfield all season. On Saturday, he finished with 78 yards on 21 carries, but none were more important than the ones that ground down the Mililani defense in the closing minutes.

“It’s a humbling experience. It shows how hard we’ve worked and all the stuff we’ve been through leads to this,” he said. “We really didn’t have anything to lose so we just gave it our all on the field. I know we have things we have to work on but through it all, pretty happy with the outcome.”

After the game, Kahuku was handed its championship hardware, sang its alma mater and did a spirited haka for the Red Raider faithful in attendance. It felt like an all too familiar scene from years past. It felt like old times. The whole aesthetic begged the question: Is Kahuku football back?

“We’ve always been here,” Kaniho said simply. “It was just a matter of finding ourselves.”

Perhaps the only thing lacking from the Kahuku football experience at Aloha Stadium on Saturday was the size of its crowd. Kaniho is confident that will change on Nov. 22, when the Red Raiders take on Campbell in the HHSAA Open Division state semifinals.

“Hopefully it’s packed,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it will be. Can’t wait for that.”


  1. 2ndstring October 27, 2019 6:31 am

    Think we can all agree Kahuku is much improved…Also the open division playoffs should be 4 teams the loser of Saint/Puns plays Kahuku and winner plays Mililani. ILH #1 vs OIA #2 and OIA #1 vs ILH #2. Think they would all be close games with the 4 best defenses in the state representing. Just my opinion, if Campbell loses to Kahuku for a third time by 28+ points let’s move forward from the current format.

  2. Lou October 27, 2019 8:34 am

    The OIA would never agree to the OPEN format championship having 2 ILH teams. You might as well go back to the Prep Bowl. Out of the Top 5 teams in the Open, Kahuku is the only non recruiting team. If fact more players leave the North Shore to play at ILH schools. The only way a second ILH team gets into the playoff format is if $$$ is offered.

  3. really October 27, 2019 8:34 am

    I think only in Hawaii are leagues awarded berths based on size of league. I think that’s absurd.

    Now granted, college isn’t high school. But could you imagine the old WAC, that had 16 teams at one point, getting more teams into the NCAA basketball tournament over the ACC that had 8-10 teams at the time just because the WAC had more participants?

    That’s what’s going on here.

    The OIA usually has 2 good teams. So does the ILH since Kamehameha is usually bad.

    But we give the OIA more berths since their league is larger. That’s asinine.

    Common sense says Punahou is better than Mililani and Kahuku since they beat them on the field.

    And until either of those teams beat Punahou, you can say either are better.

    This is a broken system.

  4. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 8:49 am

    Yeah, Mililani beat Kahuku on the field during regular season. Then Kahuku beat them in championship. So you’re argument about Punahou being better is moot. We don’t really know till the end of the season. RR4L

  5. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 8:56 am

    You crying like Punahou going lose already. Just wait and see. Then go ahead and gripe. But if St. Louis goes down to Punahou twice. Then everyone will have to put them up there. It was ILH who agreed to this format so they wouldn’t have to play each other three to four times a season. Only my opinion.

  6. Alpha October 27, 2019 9:03 am

    The game was a classic, could have went either way. Felt like a throwback of good defense and ground and pound offense. Mililani could’ve rotated their rb’s to keep Kahuku on their toes. Nothing against M. Sam but he’s a very one dimensional runner, could’ve mixed it up with Alcover and Motoyama. Kahuku well, dont ever try to be St. Louis or Mililani, that school, that community is built tough. No need to finesse other schools, just in your face down the hill running and defense. Congrats Red Nation. . . .

  7. Game changah October 27, 2019 9:23 am

    RR neition is mentioned in the states win or loose, besides St Louis a lil bit, all the other schools, it’s like filling Jerry Rices shoes, you guise are still unknown, you guise probably get away with murder cause you guise are still in the making. Few more state champions then we can talk.

  8. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 9:44 am

    EIGHT STATE CHAMPIONSHIP. Says enough. Haha. Bring out the hateraide.

  9. really October 27, 2019 10:17 am

    @ Hauula Boy.

    The most important variable when comparing teams is head to head matchups. Punahou beat Kahuku on a neutral field. I think it was 2 weeks ago. That was recent.

    You can’t blame any team on a flawed system.

    Other than head to head, what variable do you think determines which team is better?

    And you’re comparing a game (Mililani vs. Kahuku) that was played about 2 months ago to a game played 2 weeks ago?

    That’s a pretty weak argument. Please try to be transparent. That’s the best way to have debates and arguments.

  10. really October 27, 2019 10:19 am

    It’s so unfortunate that some posters who are quiet most of the year when their team is struggling starts to flap their gums after one win. If you are going to mouth off, at least be consistent and do it all year.

    Were you flapping your gums after your coach pulled his team and didn’t want to continue after halftime vs STL?

  11. 88 October 27, 2019 12:37 pm

    Who are you the post police…. You thought you were right with your assessment about Kahuku and now that you are found to be an idiot you want cry about people coming out the woodwork to post. Suck it up you panty.

  12. really October 27, 2019 12:41 pm

    Such a great role model. Talk about being a fair weather fan and jumping on a bandwagon.

  13. Kimo Lee October 27, 2019 12:42 pm

    Classic game. Mililani QB struggled big time because of Kahukud stuff defense. It was a big improvement from the first time. Special team bails out the Red Raiders and what a beautiful return it was. A couple of years ago there was 2 ILH teams in the playoffs and if not mistaken Mililani beat Punahou. I do think #1ILH is #2OIA AND #1 OIA VS #2ILH that would be the true way to do it in my opinion. I am public school, and I believe St. Louis is the best team in Hawaii by far. But you never know in High School Football.

  14. 88 October 27, 2019 12:51 pm

    @kimo Lee- Correction, Kapolei smashed Punahou.

    @ really- we come on here to talk shet to eachother about our different schools. It’s all fun and games. The problem is when people like you don’t realize that and get all but hurt. You Lost buddy. Your a loser and will remain a loser until next season when Mililani will have another shot at Kahuku. Accept it.. ha ha ha ha ha ha

  15. ILH October 27, 2019 12:53 pm

    Why only if Kahuku is in the Championship game the whole community turns out to the game, but in the semifinals or when they were losing no community support, be consistent, not only show up for Championship games.but a good win for Kahuku against Mililani, Mililani got caught sleeping when they took a 3-0 lead with little over 5 min. to play, Mililani thought they would win 3-0 with not much time on the clock, but now needs to regroup as the tough ILH team awaits.

  16. Kimo October 27, 2019 12:58 pm

    @88 Thank you for the correction, I remember that Taulia was the QB. Sorry getting old.

  17. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 2:13 pm

    Kahuku played Punahou tough and lost. My point is that the outcome could be different second time around. So please don’t get mad and lose your cool. That’s how you lose a debate.

  18. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 2:32 pm

    Calling someone else’s argument is weak in itself. Wait did I just make my argument weak? Hahahahahaha. Too funny. This to much fun.RR4L

  19. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 3:16 pm

    And the Punahou game was three weeks ago. Not that it matters. Just saying. Fact check.

  20. really October 27, 2019 3:51 pm

    Of course an outcome can be different.

    But until you play, head to head matchups are the most exact. Unless you have a variable that is more accurate.

    They played on a neutral field so no one had an advantage. Kahuku lost.

    Therefore as of today, they are a worse team. Their record is worse. They lost head to head.

    What other variable would you use?

  21. really@aol.com October 27, 2019 3:54 pm

    @ILH. Unfortunately some fans are fair weather fans and enjoy jumping on bandwagons. There’s nothing wrong with that. A few weeks ago many wanted the coach fired. Now, I haven’t seen anything about firing the coach. Let them be. It’s football or bust. And that’s ok.

  22. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 4:19 pm

    Anyone who saw that game knows who had the advantage that night. So if you really think Kahuku doesn’t have a chance against St. Louis and Punahou. Keep believing that. Oh and that game had no bearing on Kahuku standings. Only in media rankings.

  23. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 4:34 pm

    Yes the system is flawed. But so is the world. When thirty three thousand Hawaiians on waiting list for Hawaii Home Land. When Trump is our President. When refs miss calls or decides to call pass interference when clearly there was none. Oh well. That’s life. And if you’re team doesn’t make the state tournament because politics. That’s life.

  24. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 4:40 pm

    You come on here and preach to us about how you so sad that our simple life upsets you. But if we are happy? Then what’s it to you? Why worry about what we do? Worry about yourself. Then maybe you can feel better about your life and stop hating on ours. Peace out.RR4L

  25. Good Story October 27, 2019 4:43 pm

    Is that you EF? How you doing you schizophrenic you?

  26. Hboy October 27, 2019 4:51 pm

    Hail Kahuku Hail! Great defensive game. It looked almost identical to the first time except special teams bounces went Mililani’s way. Offensively Mililani did a little better but would not have scored without the special team plays (mistakes) and turnovers but that’s football. In an ideal world, the best team will win all the time and when teams are balanced its whoever can capitalize off of any mistakes by the other team. Hats off to a tough and skilled Mililani team.
    Good luck because you don’t have to be the best team in the league, state or country to win the game, you just need to be the best team on the field that night (day). Small chance of an all OIA state championship with a tie breaker between Mililani and Kahuku but wouldn’t that be SWEET as.
    Rest up OIA and be ready to play in a couple of weeks.

  27. WhoWantsIt October 27, 2019 5:28 pm

    Who cares about ILH 2. Or OIA #2 or OIA #3 for that matter.

    It’s all about ILH #1 versus the best in the OIA.

    Wanting to know who the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best in the state really truly is? Who cares. Nobody keeps track of that we know who played in the ship and who won the ship?

  28. really October 27, 2019 5:54 pm

    Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 4:19 pm
    Anyone who saw that game knows who had the advantage that night. So if you really think Kahuku doesn’t have a chance against St. Louis and Punahou. Keep believing that. Oh and that game had no bearing on Kahuku standings. Only in media rankings.

    It’s irrelevant who might have had the advantage. The game is determined by score and Kahuku lost.

    This is the 3rd time I am asking you what variable is more important than determining which team is better other than head to head matchup.

    I get it if team 1 is like 4-5 and team 2 is 9-1. Then head to head might not mean as much.

    But when team 1 has 1 loss and team 2 has more than 1 loss, plus they lost head to head against team 1, what variable is more important?

    I notice you like to ramble, but you still haven’t answered my question. I am guessing you don’t answer it since you can’t.

  29. really October 27, 2019 5:57 pm

    Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 4:40 pm
    You come on here and preach to us about how you so sad that our simple life upsets you. But if we are happy? Then what’s it to you? Why worry about what we do? Worry about yourself. Then maybe you can feel better about your life and stop hating on ours. Peace out.RR4L
    Can you please re-write this using proper English? I have a headache. It’s like I am trying to reach a second grader’s work.

  30. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 6:03 pm

    Wait. We talking about rambling? This coming from the guy who writes essays. Haha haha. Too funny. And we’re talking about a game that has no bearing on Kahuku. It only matters to Punahou.

  31. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 6:17 pm

    Aaahhhhh. No. If you don’t like it,don’t bother reading it. I’m sorry I’m not a third grader. Then maybe you wouldn’t get headaches.

  32. Hau’ulaBoy October 27, 2019 6:19 pm

    But you try reach a second graders work. But that might be hard for ya.

  33. To da hale October 27, 2019 6:19 pm

    Sorry, but although Kahuku has improved throughout the season, they will not come close (again) to StL if they meet again.

    If there wasn’t a lighting issue during their 1st game, StL would have put Kahuku in the mercy rule in the middle of the 3rd qtr. It wouldn’t have been pretty….

  34. WhoWantsIt October 27, 2019 7:38 pm

    To da hale — I hope St. Louis feels the same way and sleeps on Kahuku. If you asked anyone at the beginning of the season if they thought Kahuku could win OIAs this year you, and everyone else in the state would say heck no (Especially after the dirty lickens they took from Mililani early). Nobody was thinking that and just like that, they are OIA Champs… again (x27) and going into States.

  35. Lou October 27, 2019 10:47 pm

    You know what a half game, 28-0 showed St.Louis………nothing. Hahahaha. It’s in the past…………go to sleep.

  36. Lou October 27, 2019 10:51 pm

    With Punahou and Mililani coming up, DE laura could pop a knee or ankle. Let’s hope not. You know they will be coming………hard. As for Campbell, just run run run clock, sub rest.

  37. To da hale October 27, 2019 11:17 pm

    Let’s not bring up injuries to a player.

    Delaura still gotta rep da 808 at the next level.

  38. All facts October 28, 2019 1:52 am

    @ to da hale
    Why st louis no play mater dei or bosco if they mercy ruling all the hawaii teams.

  39. To da hale October 28, 2019 6:57 am

    I would like to see them play a top 5 team.

    Then they can truly see how good they are.

  40. Zazu October 28, 2019 7:22 am

    3 weeks ago crying , need new coach, blah blah blah, now at the moment, Kahuku is almighty, they the best , they will beat saint louis , lol, clowns i tell you. Saint Louis 30 point favors in both games , against mililani in the semis, and Kahuku at the finals. Mililani was outcoached from a not coached team lol , very embarrassing losing to Kahuku the way they did, especially with an offense like that, but then again mililani looked just as bad offensively. St Louis 4 peat , it will not even be close. I hope the red sea shows up to help the stadium make some money for remodeling. Cause its going to be a silent silent red sea.

  41. ToTheFale October 28, 2019 10:01 am

    Kahuku. The school that has made St.Louis faithfuls leave the championship game in the 3rd quarter. Cal Lee, no shake hand if he takes runner up. No can. Not the St.Louis way. Poor sports. How can you walk away from 2 ex St.Louis players (Tata,Hao) who out coached St.Louis coach LEE? SHAME.

  42. Hau’ulaBoy October 28, 2019 10:47 am

    We going be there. Hopefully you will. You still gotta get past Punahou. We still gotta beat Campbell. But no worries, if we in state championship you the Red Sea will be there.

  43. Aku eyball October 28, 2019 11:46 am

    One more thing to add : Punahou needs to take page out of Kahuku’s playbook. In the past Punahou has had big leads against St. Louis in the past only to lose because Dey can’t close out the game. The passing game is great it’s what everyone runs, but wen u have a lead u need to go into that old mentality of the 2 tight ends I formation running attack. It eats up the clock & tires out the defense. Yeah it can be boring but it’s the one thing St. Louis can’t handle & Kahuku has proven it.

  44. Yezzir October 28, 2019 1:58 pm

    Hats off to Kahuku. It was pound for pound a great game and they wanted it more and got it. Well deserved win.

    Every year get clowns hating on the top schools Kahuku, St Louis, Puns and Mililani. Every year I hear I heard they going be junk this year. They loss everyone. But esp Kahuku and St Louis. I just roll my eyes. They are powerhouse teams. To me they will always dominate.

  45. ILH October 29, 2019 12:21 pm

    Aku Birds-

    Dey no need take a page out of Kahukus playbook, cause it aint even working for Kahuku.

    I agree with the Delaura comment. Well see.

    I would think that RR’s would like the competition. If you go back to the old format, aint no one beating you guys, just saying.

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