Q&A: Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho

A 2-0 start for Kahuku is no surprise.

The No. 2 team in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 is hungry. The Red Raiders want it all, as always, and that goal hasn’t been achieved as often. Kahuku has captured just one of the last five state championships in the HHSAA’s highest tier. There doesn’t feel like a significant drop-off, though. After winning the state crown in 2015, Kahuku reached the final in the past two seasons, losing to Saint Louis.

First-year head coach Sterling Carvalho has the Red Raiders moving forward. Kahuku is 2-0 after a 41-28 win over No. 4 Punahou. They travel to Waianae, their first road game of the season, tonight. Coach Carvalho chatted with HPW on Tuesday.

HPW: You’ve had a chance to review the game with Punahou. What are your thoughts?

Sterling Carvalho: We’ve accomplished one of our big goals, which is to win our first (Open Division) game, in a new era with a new head coach, take down an ILH team. This week showed we’re moving in the right direction.

HPW: Both teams, but more so Kahuku, struggled to avoid encroachment penalties. Was Punahou’s cadence (by quarterback Hugh Brady) that good? Seemed like it was.

Carvalho: We worked on the (cadence) all week, too. It’s one of the things, Punahou got the best of us. All our practice is relevant to what we want to do in a game, limiting penalties, paying attention to details.

HPW: The domination by your offensive line, and the turnaround by Kahuku’s defense against Punahou, how does this team stay hungry?

Carvalho: Being short the last two years, we’ve been short, so that’s motivation enough. They ran the table (in the OIA) the last couple years, but came up short. The eyes are on the prize, so we want to make sure week in and week out, we want to make sure. We’re preparing for a different Waianae team, a lot of players who are eligible to participate. We told them, ‘Don’t think the team that played against Waipahu and Saint Louis is going to be there on Friday night.’ We don’t want to be caught off guard.

HPW: There’s nothing like a proud program off to an 0-2 start, playing at home for the first time.

Carvalho: One of my slides in my powerpoint is being a wolf dog backed into a corner. You don’t underestimate when someone is backed up into a corner. Right now, Waianae is backed up and this is their first home game. They’re coming out fighting.

HPW: Waianae will get a boost from the players who were on academic probation for the first two weeks. Their defense will probably improve a lot.

Carvalho: Their coaches worked with Sola (Soliai, Kahuku defensive coordinator) this past summer. They collaborated. We don’t mind sharing. That’s a good thing about my staff, we don’t mind collaborating with our colleagues. We throw around thoughts and ideas and it goes back and forth.

HPW: Your quarterback, Robbie Sauvao, played for you on the JV, and now he’s proving that he can take care of the ball, make the basic plays, and also throw deep and run for huge gains. When I interviewed him after the Punahou game, he actually said that the ILH isn’t that good. I think he’s got some swagger to him, and he’s not ashamed of it, but he’s also not as cocky as he might have appeared.

Carvalho: When we talked about that, he said he meant to say we prepared hard for Punahou, it wasn’t as tough as we set it out to be. As coaches, we’re going to prepare our guys for the best team we’re going to see that night, avoiding the worst-case scenario. He was alluding to, yes, we’re going into a war, but in the second half, the game started to slow down and our line made holes.

HPW: That day was a memorable one. I saw the Kahuku bleachers half-filled just 30 minutes before game time. Then I learned that Coach Pele (Leiataua)’s funeral was also that afternoon, and the bleachers filled up by kickoff.

Carvalho: Almost all our team was there from 8:30 (at the service) in the morning. It was an emotional day, physically draining, too. That night was for Coach Pele. That put it into perspective.


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