by Jasmine Weng
Football is immensely popular in the U.S., but few in the Mainland know its cultural role on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Kahuku High School football draws thousands to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, and on September 17 more than 2,000 “Red Raider” fans flew to Las Vegas for a game against Bishop Gorman, the number one high school in the nation. Gorman prevailed, but not the Kahuku spirit that is traced to ancient traditions of family, community, and excellent gamesmanship.
For those born in the North Shore towns, Kahuku football is the center of gravity. It owns the most championships, and sends the most players to the NFL. Red Raider fans purchased the 2,000 available tickets for the Las Vegas game within an hour. The stadium holds 5,000 people and the Kahuku faithful had a huge presence in their red t-shirts as they waved Red Raider flags. Fans back on the island watched the game on TV or online in ritual gatherings in homes and eateries. Pounders Restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center streamed the contest for Kahuku fans while providing Kalua pork and other game “grinds.”
Pounders was packed that night with red t-shirt clad supporters, some wearing the classic Red Raider headband. Beyond Pounders, thousands found somewhere to watch the live stream. Fans rarely watch games alone as TV broadcasts become ignite luaus up and down Kamehameha Highway.
Although Bishop Gorman has a big budget and superior equipment, they’re no match for Kahuku spirit that echoes the ancient warrior legends; Devotion to the game may derive from ancient dance rituals. Service activities and community fundraising is often tied to football.
Aofaga Wily, a 21 year old Kahuku alumnus and football player says he felt like a celebrity while on the team. Even as a high school player, people sought his autograph and photo. “The attention did not make me big-headed or conceited, but made me humble and willing to be a good example for the younger generation”, said Wily. He expressed how football is a big influence on other players’ lives; it teaches hardwork, humility, and how to build a family with teammates. While Kahuku lost the game, they gained great experience by playing Bishop Gorman. Red Raiders of the North shore always hold their heads high; they are “Red Raiders for life.”