Kahuku presence in Super Bowl should not surprise anyone


POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

Perhaps you have heard of a place called San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. More than 100 Major League Baseball players were born in this town of around 200,000, earning it the name “;Cradle of Shortstops.”;





        Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals

When: 1 p.m. today


TV: KHNL, Ch. 8


Radio: KKEA 1420-AM



I'm not the first to call Samoa its gridiron equivalent. And if we zoom it down to zip codes, Kahuku's 96731 is to producing football studs what 90210 is to cheesy TV of the '90s.

Mike Huguenin, who used to be my boss in Gainesville, Fla., writes for Rivals.com now. He notes that there are two players in the Super Bowl today from the same high school. He writes that, “;incredibly, it's a high school in Hawaii.”;

It's remarkable, yes. But not incredible.

This was just a matter of time.

Of course, people here are proud, but who among us is really surprised? And anyone paying close attention to the explosion of Polynesian power in the NFL wouldn't be, either.

As for Kahuku, specifically, in 2006 it tied for first with five alumni in the NFL. Aaron Francisco (safety, Cardinals) and Chris Kemoeatu (guard, Steelers) are today's Super Bowl participants.

“;There's more and more of us coming up, too,”; Francisco said in a phone interview from Tampa the other day. “;Unreal when you think of it, how many players. And two of us in the big game.”;

THE DISPROPORTIONATE amount of football talent coming from Hawaii and Kahuku snuck up on some folks because old and not so old stereotypes are hard to break. Basically, we're still more famous for other things.

I was often asked stupid questions about Don Ho, Michelle Wie and, worst of all, Dog Chapman while traveling on the mainland in recent years. Events of the past few months have somewhat amended this of course, but the great football players are still overshadowed by entertainers, golf phenoms (Tadd more than Michelle these days), bounty hunters and now, the president.

Heck, Francisco and Kemoeatu aren't even the most famous people from Kahuku. Before today, anyway, more people had heard of singer Jack Johnson.

It's hard to think of Kahuku football players as underdogs these days. But remember, that's how they were generally perceived in 2000 (because of the talent over the years and lack of Prep Bowl wins, some would say underachievers, not underdogs). Then the Red Raiders—led by Francisco and Kemoeatu—changed Hawaii high school football forever with their monumental victory over Saint Louis.

It was the most significant prep game in the state's history, because the Crusaders had held a lock on the Oahu and state championships for more than a decade. Plenty of people were tired of Saint Louis' domination. Kahuku's win gave public school athletes hope.

Francisco still uses it as inspiration.

“;It's unbelievable how still we're hearing and reading how we (the Cardinals) don't belong here, that we're the worst playoff team in history. So many people don't understand how hard it is to win one playoff game, and we've won three,”; he said. “;But we were big underdogs in high school—no one outside believed in us then. So I know that doesn't matter.”;

Kemoeatu's on the team favored to win today, but can be called an underdog, too. It's his first year starting and the Steelers' offensive line has been shaky at times.

Just two things are certain for Francisco and Kemoeatu headed into today's game.

They're both Red Raiders for life.

And, whatever happens, this afternoon their alma mater will be home to a Super Bowl winner.