• Christian Shimabuku

Prep football top 10 countdown: Kahuku hoping to stay healthy this season


JERRY CAMPANY / JCAMPANY@STARADVERTISER.COM

Kahuku will have an open competition at QB with, from left, Jason Mariteragi, Robbie Sauvao and Tiger Adolpho vying for the spot.

The groundbreaking 2018 prep football season in Hawaii marked the first season of Open Division play, pitting the top nine teams in the state against each other every week.

From the outside looking in, a team that finishes in the top half of the Open gauntlet and reaches the state semifinals should feel at least some sense of satisfaction.

Not Kahuku.

The Red Raiders saw a streak of three straight OIA championships and state title game appearances snapped last year and limped to a 7-5 finish amid a slew of injuries to key players.

As head coach Sterling Carvalho enters his second year at the helm, expectations remain high on the North Shore. He’s hopeful the challenges in Year 1 translate to better fortunes this time around.

“Just how to manage the program as a whole. It was the first time that we had this kind of division as far as the Open. It’s a grind every single week,” he said. “Learning how to manage practices, the players’ health both mentally and physically, going into my second year, at least we have one year of experience managing that.”

Kahuku jumped out to a 3-0 start last year, including a 41-28 win over Punahou. But in its fourth game against Saint Louis at Aloha Stadium, the Red Raiders fell 30-14. More crushing that night was the loss of senior linebacker Miki Ah You, the team’s unquestioned leader, to a torn ACL.

Kaonohi Kaniho, a Star-Advertiser All-State first-team selection at cornerback as a sophomore, was also lost for the season that night with a torn PCL. The team was also without star offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi for more than half the season.

Carvalho has prepared his squad as best as he can for future injury prevention, even going as far as making chiropractors and yoga sessions available to the team at times. But he knows it’s ultimately out of his control.

“Injuries are just part of the game. You’re going up against teams that are just as physically strong as you are every single week,” Carvalho said. “We just have to make sure we manage the players’ bodies, making sure that we have the rest, the stretching.

“Our strength and conditioning program has been really good this year. But it’s unavoidable, it’s just part of the game. It’s a tough, brutal sport and it comes with the territory.”

Ah You has moved on to play college football at Washington, while Vimahi is now at Ohio State. Kaniho, who holds scholarship offers from Hawaii and Boise State (where older brother Kekaula is a junior), is back for his senior year and hungry as ever.

“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” Kaniho said. “Recruiting kind of slowed down too after last year’s injury, a lot of coaches questioning whether I’m going to be healthy or not. The goal this year is to just stay healthy and play all games including playoffs.”

Carvalho brings back a talented crop, especially on defense. He says he’ll count on Fonoimoana-Vaomu brothers Mana (defensive back) and Kana (linebacker) to be the leaders on that side of the ball. Both are seniors, despite Mana being a year older, and each are committed to play college ball at Navy. As a junior, Mana was yet another injured Red Raider, missing more than half the season with knee and ankle injuries.

Carvalho praised Ace Kaufusi, an outside linebacker/safety hybrid with offers from Utah, BYU and Utah State, for having a productive summer and taking on a bigger leadership role as a senior.

On offense, Carvalho expects lineman Micah Soliai Howlett to be the anchor of the unit. On June 13, Soliai Howlett committed to Arizona State over seven other FBS offers.

“I really wanted to play in the Pac-12,” he said. “Coach (Kevin) Mawae is a really good coach and he’s about to be in the Hall of Fame. I just wanted to be coached by him.

“(Committing) just lets me worry about the season, not about getting recruited. Just getting better as a team, too. We’re just hungry to play. We want to win games.”

The team will also use camp for its quarterback competition, which Carvalho said is wide open among senior Robbie Sauvao and sophomores Jason Mariteragi and Tiger Adolpho, who has a Hawaii offer. Carvalho says the same will be asked of whoever wins the job.

“To manage the game. A lot of our studs are on defense. We gotta make sure we don’t put our defense in a hardship or predicament where the other team can score,” he said. “Gotta manage the game, be able to not only hand off the ball, which Kahuku usually always does, but to move the ball through the air.”

Kahuku will also travel to take on Timpview (Provo, Utah) on Sept. 6. In addition to the game, the Red Raiders have a tour of the University of Utah planned and will watch the Utes take on Northern Illinois on Sept 7. It should be a fun bonding experience for his boys, but Carvalho refuses to look ahead to that.

“Right now, we take each opponent a week at a time. In this OIA/ILH divisional conference, you gotta take it one team at a time,” Carvalho said. “We’re not looking straight forward to Timpview in four or five weeks. We gotta worry about (season-opening opponent) Kamehameha. That’s what we have to take care of first.”

KAHUKU RED RAIDERS

>> Head coach: Sterling Carvalho

>> Last year: 7-5 (3-2 OIA Open); defeated Campbell 27-7 in OIA Open semifinals; lost to Mililani 27-7 in OIA Open title game; lost to Saint Louis 49-22 in HHSAA Open state semifinals.

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections returning: Micah Soliai Howlett (third-team OL)

>> Honolulu Star-Advertiser All-State selections lost to graduation: Tausili Fiatoa (first-team DE); Enokk Vimahi (second-team OL); Nalu Emerson (third-team S); Ethan Erickson (third-team P)

SCHEDULE

Date / Opponent, Time

8/10 Kamehameha, 6:30 p.m.

8/16 @Mililani, 7:30 p.m.

8/24 Waianae, 6:30 p.m.

8/31 Campbell, 6:30 p.m.

9/6 @Timpview (Utah), 3 p.m.

9/14 Saint Louis,* 7:30 p.m.

9/20 @Kapolei, 7:30 p.m.

10/5 Punahou,* 7:30 p.m.

10/12 Farrington, 6:30 p.m.

* — @Aloha Stadium

Prep football top 10 countdown: Kahuku hoping to stay healthy this season

DARRYL OUMI / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Kahuku defensive back Kaonohi Kaniho is eager to return

after suffering a season-ending injury last season.

DARRYL OUMI / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Micah Soliai Howlett.

DARRYL OUMI / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Linebacker Kana Fonoimoana-Vaomu.

DARRYL OUMI / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

Mana Fonoimoana-Vaomu.

#JasonMariteragi #RobbieSauvao #TigerAdolpho #SterlingCarvalho #MikiAhYou #KaonohiKaniho #AceKaufusi #MicahSoliaiHowlett

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