Kahuku Red Raiders Take on the Best High School Football Team in the U.S.

How do the Red Raiders stack up against football factory Bishop Gorman?

Hawai‘i wins. That’s going to be one takeaway after the dust settles in Las Vegas following Saturday’s clash between Bishop Gorman, the nation’s top-ranked football team, and our very own Kahuku, rated No. 17 but a decided underdog.


Hawai‘i will win no matter which team prevails. That’s because two-time consecutive national champ Bishop Gorman, a preparatory school whose emphasis is on recruiting elite athletes, already is stocked with a handful of stars from Kahuku, ‘Iolani and Mililani. Their best defensive player so far this year, Palaie Gaoteote, played at Mililani his freshman year. He’s dominated at linebacker early this season. Another defensive stud, Haskell Garrett, transferred from St. Louis.


If that sounds weird—how do you transfer 3,000 miles—you haven’t been paying attention to high school football. At the upper levels, with the kind of teams that attract national rankings, it has become as commercialized, cutthroat and sincere as reality TV. The Bishop Gormans and Harvard-Westlakes and IMG Academies basically import talent based on scouting camps conducted by college recruitment and rating services such as Rivals.com, which collect fees from kids for evaluating and disseminating their vital stats and physical abilities.


It’s not unusual for player families to uproot themselves and move thousands of miles so their son can try out. But if the son doesn’t make the first team, what then? He isn’t being showcased. The schools’ reply: You’re free to leave. And quite a few do.


It isn’t just a global competition for top talent. For decades Punahou skimmed the cream of Island athletes. St. Louis got into the act in the 1990s, often fielding teams of over 100 players. Some remorse and regulatory crackback limited the squad sizes, but recruiting persists. Only a couple of years ago Punahou featured an entire backfield of former or would-have-been Kahuku players. When they played Kahuku in the semi-finals, the game resembled a rugby scrum. (Punahou won, but were so bruised and battered they lost the championship.)


Against this backdrop, it feels right for the entire state to take an opportunity to set aside personal allegiances and root for the Red Raiders. They’re a public school filled with in-district kids going up against the best corporate sports can afford. No matter what the score, Kahuku didn’t back down from scheduling the game—which, being in Vegas, gives Gorman quite a home field advantage.


The game will not be televised locally, but you can stream it live on highschoolrewind.com at 7 p.m. Las Vegas time or 4 p.m. Hawai‘i time. 


Editor’s Note: Senior Editor Don Wallace is the author of One Great Game: Two Teams, Two Dreams, in the First-Ever High School National Championship Football Game, published by Atria/Simon&Schuster.


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