The state’s leading receiver is also making his presence felt on defense.
Campbell sophomore Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa was sensational on Friday night in a 35-19 win at Radford, hauling in four passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. He also added two interceptions on top of returning kickoffs and punts for No. 10 Sabers (5-2, 5-1 OIA Blue), who have won five of their last six.
“The struggle is real, just gotta fight through it every day,” he said when asked about his approach. “I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been working hard.”
Adkins-Kupukaa’s meteoric rise hasn’t come as a surprise to Campbell coach Darren Johnson, who sees similar production whenever he steps on the gridiron.
“He practices like that so he does it every day, not just game night,” Johnson said. “He leaves it on the field everywhere we go.”
Adkins-Kupukaa’s ball-hawking ability has compelled Johnson and others to make comparisons to his son, Kahuku alum Kawehena Johnson, the Star-Advertiser’s 2012 defensive player of the year, who went on to play for New Mexico State.
The elder Johnson, also a Kahuku product, let out a laugh when recalling an exchange he had with his son on Adkins-Kupukaa, who was first offered by Hawaii last month.
“I said that to Kawe. He said ‘Dad, he still don’t have my brain,’” Johnson joked. “But he’s special. He’s gonna get bigger, he’s gonna make someone really happy and UH has a good inside track on him. They like him a lot so hopefully good things happen, we just gotta get his grades right.”
For the younger Johnson, who coaches the defensive backs for his dad’s team, having Adkins-Kupukaa at his disposal helps.
“Oh my gosh, he makes my job easy,” he said. “Put him in the middle of the field and he makes plays, sideline to sideline. He’s a great football player, got great instincts for the game. You just give him his job and he’ll do it full speed every time.
As for the comparison?
“He’s probably better than I was as a sophomore so he’s ahead of his time, definitely,” he said. “He’s making plays that seniors make and even people in college have a hard time making.”
Up next for the Sabers is a Sept. 29 matchup with Kahuku to close out the regular season for both teams. Campbell will have two weeks to prepare for the game, which will determine the overall champion and the top seed in the OIA playoffs out of the Blue division.
Both Johnsons, and Kupukaa-Adkins for that matter, understand what the matchup means.
“It’s the big test, they’re still the team to beat in the league,” Darren Johnson said. “We’re gonna go out and put our best foot forward and hope for some good results.”