All Kainoa “Kaikai” Carvalho needed was a chance to show was he could do.
In 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he didn’t get the opportunity to do so in Hawaii, as local restrictions wiped out the entire HHSAA schedule. Instead, he relocated to Skyridge High School in Utah for his sophomore year.
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There’s a common saying that’s prevalent in the North Shore: Red Raider For Life. Despite playing football on the mainland in 2020, Carvalho’s heart was always in Kahuku. After starring for Kahuku’s JV team in 2019, he didn’t suit up for the Red Raiders’ varsity team until the long-awaited 2021 season.
Carvalho simply dazzled as a slot receiver in 2021, hauling in 64 passes for a total of 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns, according to Hawaii Prep World. He was even more electrifying as a returner, scoring an additional five touchdowns in the return game. He was also the catalyst for a 10-0 Kahuku squad that won its first state title since 2016 and dethroned four-time defending HHSAA Open Division champion Saint Louis in the process.
For his efforts, Carvalho has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Cover2 Marcus Mariota Award, given annually to the state’s most outstanding high school football player.
“All credit to my teammates, my coaches, and this special community,” Carvalho told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida upon accepting the award. “They trusted me and put me in the position to make plays and I made plays all year. We had a lot of doubters out there with the passing game and such, but we showed what we can do. I think we put the state on notice.”
Carvalho is the first player from Kahuku to win the award, joining elite company across the state.
Unlike previous Mariota Award winners (Vavae Malepeai, Tua Tagovailoa, Chevan Cordeiro and Faatui Tuitele), Carvalho has yet to garner an FBS scholarship offer. Part of it may be due to his 5-foot-7 stature, but as he showed all year, all he needs is a chance to show what he can do.