Kahuku chooses Carvalho as football coach
Takes over the varsity after coaching JV last season
The years of grooming to be a varsity football head coach are over for Sterling Carvalho, who took the job at Kahuku on Thursday.
Carvalho, 42, who spent the past three seasons as the Red Raiders’ junior varsity head man, beat out the other finalist for the position, Makoa Freitas, who was the school’s interim head coach for the 2017 season that ended with an 11-2 record and a spot in the Open Division state final.
And while recent Kahuku varsity head coaches have not been known for long-term service for various reasons, Carvalho has three years of working with the kids that have moved up and continue to move up to the varsity. In that sense, his hiring signals continued stability for the program.
Even though Freitas did not get the job, he was gracious about the school’s choice, and, as a good friend of Carvalho, has nothing but positive things to say about the future of the program.
“Sterling did a great job as a JV head coach and I know he will do a great job as the varsity head coach,” Freitas said. “He is also a good role model for our student-athletes.”
Carvalho is the fifth Red Raiders head coach since 2013, after Reggie Torres (’13), Lee Leslie (’14), Vavae Tata (’15 and ’16) and Freitas (’17). Carvalho, a Kauai High alumnus and former quarterback there, was an offensive coordinator under Torres and he also spent time as a Waialua assistant.
Torres, like Freitas, is high in his praise of his former OC.
“Sterling is an awesome community man who will bring stability and consistency to the position, and his program will be centered on (student-athlete) development beyond football,” said Torres, who won state titles with the Red Raiders in 2006, ’11 and ’12 and also applied and interviewed for the position when the Kahuku administration opened it up Dec. 13.
According to sources, at least 10 people applied and at least seven interviewed for the job before Carvalho and Freitas were chosen as finalists by the school’s search committee after the interview period ended Jan. 6. Carvalho and Freitas went in for a second interview Saturday, sources said, both were on pins and needles between Saturday and Thursday. The school notified Carvalho of its choice on Wednesday night and announced that Carvalho was the new head coach Thursday afternoon.
“This is a great opportunity to carry on Kahuku’s football tradition and continue to elevate the culture of the program,” Carvalho said via cellphone Thursday.
Those who know Carvalho and his coaching style say he is firm, fair, disciplined and, organizationally, runs a tight ship.
“I’ve got to give props to Reggie Torres,” the new head coach said. “He was real organized and very good at paying attention to all the details. My coaching style is based on what I learned under him — don’t leave things to chance, prepare the best we can, plan for all situations and scenarios.”
Carvalho plans to get the varsity and JV more in sync by running the same system. He also wants to work on — as much as possible — helping to bring the same systems to the Big Boyz and Pop Warner teams on the North Shore.
“We are going to value education and get them ready for the next level and make sure that they are in a culture that is safe and where they can learn the game of football and become better citizens,” Carvalho said. “But if they don’t feel appreciated or don’t have direction, they could take the bait of Punahou or Saint Louis if they come calling.”
It remains to be seen who Carvalho will hire on his staff. He will meet with school officials in the near future to discuss that process, among other things.
On the field, Carvalho plans to go with a wide-open offense, which will likely build on what Freitas did in 2017 with dual-threat sophomore Sol-Jay Maiava at quarterback. That style is quite different than the recent past, when smashmouth ruled.
“We’re going to make opponents defend us sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line,” he said. “We’ll take what the defense gives us. Currently, we have a lot of skill players and we want to take advantage of that.”
Torres was not the only applicant who previously won a state title. Siuaki Livai, who won state championships in 2000, ’01, ’03 and ’05, also applied and interviewed. Tata, who captured the state crown in ’15 and was not retained by the Kahuku administration after making the state final in the ’16 season, applied but did not interview, according to sources.
Freitas’ offensive coordinator, Fa‘aesea Mailo, and former Kahuku assistants David Te’o and Marvin Cravens also put in for the job, but of the three, only Mailo and Cravens interviewed.
Also, sources said a Kahuku administrator asked former University of Hawaii assistant Chris Naeole to apply, but Naeole declined.