The record is 7-4 for the Kahuku Red Raiders.
No, it’s 0-0. The semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division Football State Championships kick off at Aloha Stadium on Friday afternoon. Kahuku’s roller-coaster, injury-riddled season practically starts anew. Win and stay in. Lose and be eliminated.
Kahuku first-year coach Sterling Carvalho chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: How is your injury situation now, Coach, with the extra week of rest?
Carvalho: The two we were hoping to get back aren’t able to play. Kaonohi Kaniho had an outside shot. He got hurt in the (regular-season) Saint Louis game. He was holding out hope.
HPW: What type of injury does he have?
Carvalho: It’s a knee injury. We found out this past weekend, not going to play. He’s still not getting full range of motion. Our DB, Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu, got hurt against Campbell and got reinjured the second time we played them. We were holding out hope on him, too.
HPW: It’s been a long season, lots game reps for your young defense. There aren’t many teams big and athletic enough to get pressure on Saint Louis. Jayden de Laura has progressed a lot at QB for them.
Carvalho: We need to rattle de Laura. This past couple of weeks, Sola’s (defensive coordinator Sola Soliai) been tweaking some fronts. Hopefully we can cause some confusion in getting to him, and in coverage.
HPW: Your defense has progressed, too, since the injury to Miki Ah You. Who’s been developing in that middle for you?
Carvalho: They’re young, doing good, our two LBs, Ilaisa Fotu is a sophomore. Allan Talanoa is a 10th grader, more of a OLB.
HPW: They’ve gotten better each time with game experience. It would be timely if they also had their best games against Saint Louis this week.
Carvalho: Hopefully that’s what will get them over the edge. They just can’t play intimidated.
HPW: I know earlier in the season, your defensive guys were spending up to an hour in film study every day before practice. Is that still the routine?
Carvalho: Everything is more on the field, walk-throughs. Hone down on that. Our field is still bad, we haven’t practiced on it for a couple weeks. Last night (Tuesday) we were at Farrington, tonight (Wednesday) we’re at Castle.
HPW: It would be worthwhile for the facilities at Kahuku and Campbell to get up to the same level as other schools in the OIA. But I don’t know if the community is willing to get politically involved. That’s what it will probably take. What do you see when you study Saint Louis’ defense?
Carvalho: 12 (Jordan Botelho), 19 (Nick Herbig) and 1 (Kila Kamakawiwo‘ole), those are the ones who stand out on all videos. We’re running and 1 is filling that hole so fast. Herbig off the edge and plays coverage. Botelho holds down that side really well. (DT Faatui) Tuitele takes up that whole middle section to. We have to be precise in how we run the lanes will be small, alleys tight, windows smaller than we thought. Their defense is great. You see Kahuku’s defense like that, but their defense is clicking on all cylinders.
HPW: If Kahuku’s defense plays its best, the kicking game is solid, and the offense helps with field position, gets a score here and there, this could become a close game.
Carvalho: I see it and we have to have our best game, the potential is there, we just need to execute the game plan. That’s what we’re hoping for.
HPW: It’s that time of year when the bleachers at Aloha Stadium are filled with fans in red. The war chant. Nothing like Kahuku fans.
Carvalho: The fans are going to be huge. These boys feed off our community and rally around who’s cheering for them. Once it’s crowded behind the team, it’s full go.
HPW: I’m going to say that your TE, Ethan Erickson, might have his best game. He hasn’t had a big game yet, but he’s maybe due for a breakout.
Carvalho: When “Alpine” came to us as a sophomore, I thought it was a basketball kid walking into a football locker room. He said he’s from Alpine, Utah. One of my friends was coaching at Lone Peak, same place, so that’s the name that sticks with him, Alpine.
HPW: Your defense with the pick-6 plays against Campbell — anything is possible.
Carvalho: If the game is close, it’s in our favor.