The Kahuku Red Raiders are playing, as always, for a championship.
Kahuku is ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10. The Red Raiders are 4-1 overall, and just 1-0 in OIA Open play. Wins over Punahou and Kamehameha, and a loss to No. 1 Saint Louis — all ILH Open teams — do not count in OIA standings. Kahuku hosts No. 4 Mililani, which is 3-0 in OIA Open play, on Saturday. That will be followed by road games at Campbell and Farrington, and a regular-season finale at home against Kapolei.
Head coach Sterling Carvalho encourages constant competition at every position. To date, the offense has been relatively balanced between the run and pass compared to previous seasons. Kahuku has run the ball 164 times for 769 yards (4.7 per carry), mostly out of a pistol/offset I formation. They have aired the ball out 115 times, for a run-pass ratio of 59-41 percent.
Robbie Sauvao has completed 48 of 96 attempts (50 percent) for 615 yards with six TDs and two interceptions. He has also been a scrambler out of the pocket, rushing for 173 yards on 28 attempts.
Thorton Alapa, who started against Saint Louis and played into the third quarter, is 10-for-16, 132 yards, one TD and one interception in two game appearances. Alapa has minus-14 rushing yards on 15 attempts.
Big Red has scored in large doses: 61 against Konawaena, 41 against Punahou, 49 at Waianae. The Red Raiders scored 14 against Saint Louis and 24 in a win over Kamehameha. Carvalho will let the daily competition play out.
“They battle every day. Whoever comes out toward the end of the week will start,” he said. “It’s a luxury having two quarterbacks. It’s the same with our wide receivers and running backs. These are high school kids and they just want to get on the field.”
With a season-ending knee injury to standout linebacker Miki Ah You, it would appear that the Red Raiders could become more conservative offensively and get their stout defensive unit more rest time during games. They do have a stable of capable running backs: Wes Alo-Maiava (286 yards, 10 TDs), Toalei Lefau (218 yards, two TDs) and Zealand Matagi (114, one).
The big question mark could be in the middle of Kahuku’s defense.
“We can’t replace Miki, but we’ll try to carry on with the intensity he always brings,” Carvalho said, noting the versatility of safety Nalu Emerson. “We brought Nalu down in there. It depends on the style of the team we play. Elijah Latu has stepped up in the middle. Coach Sola (Soliai) has a great defensive mind. He’ll scheme it up and have the players in the right positions, and make the right calls.”