Q&A: Kahuku coach Sterling Carvalho
First-year Kahuku head coach Sterling Carvalho instructed his team during a scrimmage against Waipahu last month. Photo by Steven Erler/Special to the Star-Advertiser.
Rewind just a few years back and Kahuku’s offense was a force of nature in the most legally brutal way imaginable.
With quarterbacks injured and a surplus of 200- to 240-pound bruisers in house, the Red Raiders of that era went sledgehammer style every game. That led to a state championship, throwback style, with a dominant defense and a bevy of proud blockers who sacrificed for the greater good.
Two coaches later, it has hardly taken much time for Big Red to firmly embrace what might become the most balanced offense in school history. By no coincidence, former offensive coordinator Sterling Carvalho is the new head coach. Kahuku ran the ball 29 times and threw it 27 more in a 61-9 win over Konawaena last week.
On Saturday, Punahou arrives in a battle that kicks off the Open Division regular season for each program. Punahou didn’t have a game in Week 1, which was the case for several of the nine teams in the special, select group.
“In a way, it’s a disadvantage. We want to see them especially with a new offensive coordinator. We didn’t really get to see them or scout them to see the real Punahou,” Carvalho said.
No. 2 Kahuku and No. 4 Punahou will kick off at roughly 6:30 p.m., 25 minutes after the conclusion of the junior varsity contest at Carleton Weimer Field.
Carvalho chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: Even without game footage, what are you expecting from Punahou?
Sterling Carvalho: I expect them to play fast and spread the ball around like typical Punahou, but I’m also prepared for them to rely on their running backs. It’s not like they’re going to line up in an elephant offense. We know they have a lot of speed. Guys like Tamatoa Falatea, you expect them to get the ball.
HPW: Punahou’s backfield has thunder with 6-foot-3, 225-pound Sitiveni Kaufusi and lightning with shifty Vincent Terrell. But I’m pretty sure you prefer your backs, Wes Alo-Maiava and Toalei Lefau.
Carvalho: Without a doubt, no hesitation, I’d take Lefau and Alo-Maiava.
HPW: What do you remember from hearing stories about the pre-split days of the ILH, when public and private schools of Honolulu played together?
Carvalho: I was born in 1975. I think our players and our community is excited about this. We get to see Punahou in a cross-league kind of game or postseason, but now we get to see all of them during the regular season, this is huge. This is monumental in a way. I’m excited for the world of football in this state.
HPW: Forty-nine years have passed since the OIA and ILH played regular-season football together. There were plenty of reasons why the OIA bolted in ’69, but I’ve never heard a coach or player say he liked seeing the leagues stay apart until the state tourney.
Carvalho: As a competitor, as a coach, we love the format. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best. Now everything can be laid to rest. We can see each other in the regular season and post-season.
HPW: Punahou has talent and girth across its offensive line. You’ve got two tremendously athletic defensive ends.
Carvalho: All the names and offers, on paper, their O-line is probably one of the best in the state. They have more players being offered to D-I than us and Saint Louis. We’re expecting a battle. This is probably one of the best battles in the state this weekend.
HPW: Punahou likes to change the tempo and pace offensively. How does a defense prepare for that?
Carvalho: Coach Sola (Soliai) always has that defense ready, all our athletes, our studs, they play defense and they’re ready for anything Punahou does whether it’s slow or a fast pace.
HPW: Punahou’s defense has a lot of returnees, tall and athletic guys. Maninoa Tufono released an amazing video to announce his commitment to USC.
Carvalho: First of all, Maninoa is a great athlete and he deserves every opportunity he’s getting. As a coach, I’m happy for him. It’s a tribute to all his hard work and his thanks to all of those who helped him to this point. You’ve got to respect players like that who know where everything started and came from. We wish him the best, every kid from the state, we’re rooting for them. (McKenzie) Milton, Tua(Tagovailoa), all of them, we wish the best for them at the next level.
We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t recognize the talent on the other side. We’re aware of their studs like they’re probably aware of our studs. We’re going to make sure we take care of our assignments.
HPW: How is your top O-lineman, Enokk Vimahi, doing? He sat out last week with an injury.
Carvalho: Enokk is trending in the right direction for the game. Right now, we’re happy with where he’s at.
HPW: I got to see great kickers last weekend in Akoni Tom-Makue of Leilehua, Harry Hill of Konawaena and your guy, Ethan Erickson. Now Punahou brings Tim Horn, the Washington commit. How do you feel about your special teams right now?
Carvalho: No coach is going to be satisfied where we’re at. We want to see continual improvement. My coaches have prepared our athletes well throughout the offseason for the schedule that’s ahead of us. I have a great coaching staff.
HPW: High-scoring game or low-scoring game? Which do you prefer?
Carvalho: I’m an OC by trade, so I don’t mind a high-scoring game, but weather could be a factor. The forecast looks like rain, and you know our field, any kind of rain will turn it into a mosh pit. That would be to our advantage.
HPW: So much talent up and down your roster in all three phases, but is there someone who is getting a bit overlooked so far?
Carvalho: All eyes are on Miki (Ah You), but his younger brother Zion is just a sophomore. He played a little bit in the postseason last year. You overlook him because you see the 6-2, 6-4 defensive ends, and he’s probably to their shoulders, but his strength and speed are right there. Don’t sleep on the younger brother.
HPW: Is he a Shawn Nakakura type, disrupting the flow in the backfield with a really low center of gravity?
Carvalho: Basically he’s our nose guard, probably is one our quickest off the ball you’ll ever see. He’s always looking for a play. He’s 5-9, 250 and he’s not just going to take up space or grab legs. He’s a playmaker. Simply put, he’s an Ah You.