There are only a few so-called five-star football programs in Hawaii and Kahuku is one of them.
But the fourth-ranked Red Raiders’ practice field gets only one star.
This week, with a mega game coming up against Saint Louis in the state Open Division semifinals on Friday at Aloha Stadium, Kahuku has spent some time on the bus traveling to Farrington and Castle, where there is artificial turf and solid white lines and numbers standing out brilliantly against the solid green field so players actually feel like they’re on a football field.
It is not mud and slop, which is what Kahuku would be in if it stayed home for practice.
“We are grateful that Farrington and Castle are accommodating us,” Red Raiders coach Sterling Carvalho said Wednesday. “Tonight, we won’t get on the field until 8, though, because Castle’s athletic teams are using the field. It’s going to be a late night.
“Tuesday night at Farrington, we had a great practice. We were finally on a field with lines. Even last week during a bye week, we were on a muddy field at Kahuku District Park, sharing the field with four other (soccer and rugby) teams. We appreciate our community letting us practice there and glad that none of the five teams were saying, ‘Get off our field.’ Our (home) field can’t handle all the moisture.
“It’s been a joke for years about how we have one of the best teams in the state but the worst field and facilities. People come here and ask, ‘You guys play and practice here? This is you guys’ locker room? (Past) coaches Makaoa Freitas and Vavae Tata went and practiced at Castle to get ready for the playoffs at this time of year. This is when there is the most rain. (Past) coaches Reggie Torres and Lee Leslie, the same thing. They had to go practice elsewhere. It hasn’t changed.”
There has been talk for years of improving the drainage at Kahuku, but part of the problem is that the whole school is in a flood zone and so far, there has been no easy answer.
Carvalho said his OIA runner-up Red Raiders (7-4) are ready to go, though, and are aware of the strength of the top-ranked Crusaders (9-0), who beat Kahuku 30-14 on Sept. 7.
“We’re matching up against the best in the state (and No. 9 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 and No. 16 in the USA Today Super 25), so we have to play our best football in order for us to win,” he said. “(Saint Louis coach) Cal Lee is more or less the godfather of high school football in Hawaii. He has that program dialed in. We’re going up against a well-coached team that is confident and playing at a very high level. We’ve got to be playing our best football.”
Kahuku has had its share of injuries this year and Carvalho is happy to note that some players are back and others with nagging injuries have been able to rest up. Offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi, who missed a large chunk of the season due to injury, has been back for a few games and is still working hard to get into full game shape, the coach said.
“And we’re hoping for a big crowd because our boys feed off the community,” Carvalho said.
The tomahawk-chopping Red Raiders fans are known to give that feeling of a 12th man when they show up in force, and usually games against Saint Louis will bring them out. Such was the case in the last three top-tier title games — wins by Saint Louis the past two years and by Kahuku the year before.