After two losses in three games, the Campbell Sabers were hungrier than ever.
The No. 5 team in the Star-Advertiser Football Top 10 rebounded with a 47-35 win over O’Connor (Ariz.), and the balanced contributions up and down the roster were foundational. Five touchdowns by Titus Mokiao-Atimalala — three on passes of 62, 44 and 18 yards from sophomore Blaine Hipa — and interception returns of 44 and 81 yards were enough to fill a highlight reel for a lot of players. He finished with eight catches for 150 yards.
“All glory to God. Thanks to the team. When everyone does his job, we get rewarded,” he said after playing roughly 80 percent of the snaps on defense.
He also had a leaping interception near the goal line on the final play of the first half on a Hail Mary pass by O’Connor QB Dylan Simonton. That’s three interceptions for the game.
“I don’t think (O’Connor) really scouted him,” older brother/defensive back/wide receiver Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala said.
It has been a long time since anyone had three receiving TDs and two pick-six TDs in one game. The performance came one day after Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior, received his second scholarship offer. Utah became the second team to invite him. Hawaii is the first.
All of that is well into the future. Helping the Sabers regain some mojo was top priority. Campbell clung to a 7-0 lead over O’Connor, a talented, relatively young squad that kept fighting back all night. Too often, they had single coverage on Titus.
“Everybody got their nervousness out. We knew we could compete with them,” he said. “We just had to go off.”
The touchdown receptions, no surprise. His chemistry with sophomore QB Hipa is a work of art sometimes. The pick-six plays were simply jaw-dropping. On the first, he was closer to the right sideline as he swooped over from the left hashmark. Then came the cutback against the grain.
“One of our guys was rolling down and they were running two straights. I was over the top of them, took the ball, went to one side,” he said. “Then I hooked it to the other side.”
The second pick-six came in the final minutes as the Eagles continued to battle.
“I came over to help,” said Mokiao-Atimalala, who escaped potential tacklers and booked down the sideline for the 81-yard return. “It was exciting to score a touchdown. I love it.”
But even a brilliant performance by one player doesn’t bring much satisfaction to the Sabers. Coach Darren Johnson was on them many times, using timeouts twice to question them on some plays.
“We just made too many mistakes. Guys getting lazy and not doing their job,” Titus Mokiao-Atimalala said. “We weren’t happy with the score. If you know Coach DJ, there’s no perfect win no matter how well you play. He will let you know what mistakes you made.”
The fire will always be there with Johnson. Off the field, he has praise for his hard-working Sabers. When Utah came calling on Wednesday, Johnson worked the middle.
“That was a big surprise. A lot of tears and happiness,” Titus Mokiao-Atimalala said of the Utes’ offer. “I was texting (assistant) coach (Lewis) Powell after school. He asked for Coach DJ’s number and after practice, Coach DJ said to call him.”
He is putting the future on hold, though.
“We have the next few days off,” Titus Mokiao-Atimalala said. “Ice bath and body fix tomorrow, come back on Monday and get ready for Kapolei.”
What a game Titus and Saber Fam!! So proud
This kid is a BALLER!! Congrats young man.
Hands down the states mid season MVP!
Titus having a monster year so far. Congrats to the young man. But another Saber that needs to be mentioned is the QB Hipa. What a prospect this kid is. Some of his throws are Tua like. Kid can PLAY.
How’d they hang up 35 points on them??
Take away those 2 pick six and thats the game.
Mid season MVP?? Maybe the Delaura kid because of the consistency with his performance every week. Not only against weak teams but the strong ones too.
Hating on Titus. Lol.
It would be too easy to pick Delaura (deserving), but he plays one position on a super team that plays him only 2 quarters a game because of blowouts.
He’s a very good player but like Tua at Alabama, playing half a game hurts his stock!
Titus is Killing it on both sides of the ball, special teams and on a struggling OIA team. Everyone has their opinions including you & I.
Hating on HS players?? Cmon man.
He will make all-star and state that is for sure.
And quite possibly Utility player & OIA offensive player.
But not OPEN division MVP (if that even existed).
My 3 cents.