According to a vote by readers of USA TODAY High School Sports, America’s Best Football Program belongs to a town on the north shore of Oahu about 75 miles from Honolulu.
After a perfect 13-0 season in which it allowed an averaged of 4.1 points per game and won a Division I state championship, Kahuku was the fans’ choice in our latest “Best of Contest.”
Kahuku finished with 84,610 votes, followed by Cedar Park (Texas) with 71,359 and Clairton in suburban Pittsburgh had 41,233.
“When you have contest like this, it unites the community in support of the school and the student-athletes and brings everyone together,” Kahuku athletic director Gillian Yamagata said. “It’s all about the student-athletes. We’re super excited to have the support of our community, the surrounding community and our alumni from all the United States.”
Kahuku will get a championship banner to hang in its gym along with a $1,000 prize. Cedar Park will receive $500 and a banner and Clairton will receive $250 and a banner.
A field of 175 public and private schools were divided into five geographic regions based on their standing in the Super 25 Regional Computer Rankings as of Nov. 30 with 35 schools per region. Teams that advanced from the regional round took part in the national finals.
Fans were asked to look beyond wins and losses and look at coaching, player development, facilities and support from the school and community.
“The funds will go directly back to the student athletes for equipment,” Yamagata said.
The Red Raiders won the state title in the first year for coach by Vavae Tata, who was raised in Hawaii and has coaching experience at Vanderbilt, Stanford and UCLA. Coaching Kahuku football is among the premiere jobs in the state.
Oddly enough, the Red Raiders won the title with a 39-14 victory against Saint Louis, the school Tata attended as a player, and Tata faced off against his former high school coach.
“He has a lot of experience from the college level and he was able to translate that to the student-athletes,” Yamagata said. “We have great coaches here. They behaved like champions before we were even champions. They set the standard.
“Everybody wanted to support them because how great they had done and what they have achieved. People were excited to get involbed. We had an assembly for something unrelated and one of the basketball coaches made an announcement to support the student-athletes for football in the contest.”
Yamagata said she didn’t need to do anything to get the community involved. Word of mouth and social media had spread the news before she even had a chance.
“As an athletic director, when you see the community and alumni have so much support and the administration get involved, it’s just wonderful to see,” she said.
FINAL ROUND RESULTS: