Kahuku. St. John Bosco. Sept. 17.
Most travel years, Kahuku ventures to Utah for exhibition clashes. This time, the defending Open Division state champions will head to Bellflower, Calif., where the perennial national-title contending Braves of St. John Bosco will be waiting.
Coach Sterling Carvalho’s program won its first state title since 2015 last year, relying substantially on a strong junior class. Linebackers Liona Lefau and Leonard Ah You will return, as well as wide receiver Kainoa Carvalho. Without a stout defensive unit and a balanced offense, this is a grand opportunity for Big Red to establish new status among the nation’s elite.
“We found out maybe two, three weeks ago that it was set,” Kainoa Carvalho said. “It was my uncle (Sterling Carvalho) and the team’s idea. St. John Bosco is the top dog in the game.”
The Braves finished the ’21 season ranked No. 6 in the MaxPreps national rankings and third in California behind Mater Dei and Centennial.
“I’ve been scouting a couple players and they’re pretty solid. They’re the national champs,” Carvalho said. “They play in the Trinity League, the top league in the CIF.”
St. John Bosco has two national titles since ’13 under coach Jason Negro.
“They have great players. A four-star cornerback and a safety who might be five stars. We want to prove ourselves, represent Hawaii and the state, and show we can ball out against the best teams out there,” Carvalho added. “Show what Hawaii, Laie and Kahuku can do. Something special.”
Kahuku has the returning Star-Advertiser All-State defensive player of the year in Lefau (6-1, 210) and All-State offensive POY in Carvalho. Ah You (6-3, 195) is a sack monster, and defensive back Brock Cravens Fonoimoana (6-2, 190) is another returning All-State first-team selection by coaches and media.
Kahuku isn’t lacking for national exposure thanks in part to its success in the offseason via its Pylon team, Rebel Squad. Lefau has 25 offers and has narrowed his list down to eight: BYU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, USC, Utah and Washington.
Ah You has 10 offers: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon State, San Diego State, Utah, Utah State and UNLV.
Fonoimoana, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound safety, also has offers from 10 schools: BYU, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Stanford, Virginia, Utah and Utah State.
Carvalho (5-7, 160) has six offers: Air Force, Hawaii, Navy, San Diego State, Utah and Utah State.
A number of other returnees also have FBS (Division I) offers: juniors Viliamu Toilolo (DB, 5-11, 160); Chansen Nicodemus-Garcia (DB, 5-8, 162); sophomore Kingsley Ah You (ATH, 5-11, 175); freshmen Mana Carvalho (WR/DB/P 6-11, 165) and Maximum Moe Fonoimoana (6-3, 200).
While the high school season is more than two months away, the grind never stops. There are camps and combines, and constant workouts for the defending Hawaii champs. Kahuku fans are already making plans to be in Cali soon.
“I know some community members came up to me and they’re fired up and ready to go,” Carvalho said. “I know a couple people booked tickets. Liona played at Jserra (High School) his freshman year. He has family up there.”
Waika “Toa” Crawford takes over at quarterback for recently graduated Jason Mariteragi. Crawford gained valuable experience last season while Mariteragi recovered from an early-season injury.
“Toa is doing good, working hard,” Carvalho said.
Incoming wide receiver Kache Kaio (6-1, 200) is transferring from Saint Louis to play for his hometown team. He has played for the Rebel Squad, which won its second Mecca national title recently.
“Once summer starts, Kache will start rolling with us. They live in the community. His grandma picks him up every day before and after school,” Carvalho said. “A bunch of our guys are overlooked or haven’t gotten the exposure. They’ve been learning from our older guys. Manulele (Ah You), Kache, Manoa (Hallums). We trust everyone. It’ a we thing. We trust each of our players to make a play when we need to.”
Carvalho has an official visit to Hawaii on June 3. The following week, the cadre of Kahuku standouts — Lefau, Ah You, Fonoimoana, Carvalho — will visit Utah.