SIXTH IN A SERIES ON SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICES ON OAHU
School pride has been soaring at Campbell for a few years due to the success of its athletic teams.
In the recently finished school year, it really took off. The baseball and softball team won the Division I state titles last month within the span of a week; in the winter, the girls soccer team won the OIA championship and made it deep into the state tournament; and last fall, the football team just missed qualifying for the six-team D-I states.
Amosa Amosa, who will be starting his eighth year as head coach this fall, can see the championship light that the baseball and softball teams are carrying so proudly.
That’s why just before the end of Monday’s spring practice at Ewa Beach Community Park, he called junior-to-be wide receiver Markus Ramos up to the front of the players huddled around to give them a chance at hearing about some of that state championship insight.
Ramos is a pitcher on the baseball team and he knows a thing or two about how the Sabers got it done on the diamond.
“What did we have? We had a bonding like no other,” Ramos said. “We were legit brothers. We did anything and everything together. Super close.”
Ramos also talked about another aspect of the team that really got them prepared for the state tournament travails.
“Coach (Rory Pico) called it ‘the grind’ and whether we ran or practiced, we hustled and we made sure we were all pushing each other and always working as hard as we can.”
Ramos and Amosa both believe that type of bonding and work ethic will work for the football team. One good reason is that, for the most part, those characteristics are already part of the Sabers football team.
The trick is getting it to be 100 percent there.
“Everyone has to understand that it’s a team sport and not an individual sport and you’re not just thinking about yourself,” Ramos said.
Amosa said much of the same to his players.
“Football will never be an individual sport,” he told the gathering and then rattled off a bunch of individual sports that people who don’t want to be part of a team can get involved in.
Amosa also showed that he has experienced the path to a state championship. He was an offensive coordinator under Wendell Say at Aiea when Na Alii won the inaugural Division II state title in 2003.
Amosa pointed to his Aiea championship ring that he wears so, he said kiddingly, “My wife doesn’t throw it away.”
Every year, including this one, Amosa takes a look at his football personnel and starts thinking these kinds of thoughts: “I feel like I have a special team. We’ve established the foundation of the program. The kids have an understanding of what we do. We are always working and hoping that the abilities of the juniors and seniors are peaking at the right time, so they can have a blast with what we do.”
Amosa feels some pressure now that the baseball and softball teams have succeeded at finding their Holy Grail.
“There is pressure,” he said. “We are always striving to be the best of the best.”
A year ago, Campbell finished 7-4, losing to Farrington in the OIA third-place game, thus missing a chance to make states. The previous year, the Sabers lost to Mililani in the state semifinals.
There is a lot to be optimistic about for the upcoming fall season.
As a junior, running back Terell Johnson gained 920 yards on the ground on only 144 carries, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He also scored 11 times.
It should be noted that Johnson has put on about 15 pounds of muscle and checks in at 6’1, 216 pounds with a few months to go before his senior season.
“Practice has been good,” he said. “We’re starting to get it together on the field and getting together as a team. Nobody is complaining and we’re all cheering for each other.”
Asked what he needed to improve on and Johnson said, “I can be a better person and a better leader. It’s all a team thing.”
Atapana Amosa, one in a long string of the coach’s sons to play under their dad for the Sabers, is back as the starting center.
“I love being on the field,” Atapana Amosa said. “I love the atmosphere, being around your brothers playing a sport you love. It’s the greatest feeling. We will be using the accomplishments of the baseball and softball teams as motivation.”
Coach Amosa said that he’s got about 30 returning players and that about half of them should be impact players.
The Sabers have made a name for themselves on the defensive side of the ball and the 2015 edition has the makings of another good unit.
Huge playmakers such as Solomon Matautia, Kea Cambra, Abiel Taito and Tristan Ludiazo have graduated, but senior safety/cornerback Austin Fuga is back as one of the defensive leaders.
“First, we want that OIA championship, and then we want the state championship,” Fuga said. “This year, we can do better.”
Fuga added that the Campbell defense has a lot of “studs” returning, and when asked to name a few, he mentioned senior linebackers Tyson Tafai and Nick Kernaghan.
Working against the Sabers, however, is the fact that a new field is being installed on campus and the work is not scheduled to be finished until December. All of Campbell’s games for 2015 will he on the road.
The starting quarterback position is up for grabs right now between St. Francis transfer Kawika Ulufale and Siaosi Soto, who is moving up to varsity after two years at the JV level. Both looked more than capable at Monday’s practice.
Ezra Savea, who transferred in from Kapolei a year ago and played quarterback for Campbell as a sophomore, is back with the Hurricanes for his junior season.
Senior slotback Noah Esprecion is sold on the team concept.
“Last year, we had some individuals. This year, we don’t want that. If we as seniors see people get off that track, we’ll make sure they get back on it and listen.”
Previously in the series on spring football practices —
PART 1 >> Kahuku, May 18 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/first-day-of-practice-like-christmas-for-tata/
PART 2 >> ‘Iolani, May 19 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/iolani-football-team-cranked-up-for-d-i/
PART 3 >> Punahou, May 22 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/punahous-primary-football-pieces-still-in-place/
PART 4 Mililani, May 26 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/mililani-drives-to-steer-clear-of-being-average/
PART 5 Kaiser, May 27 practice: http://www.hawaiiprepworld.com/football/kaiser-eager-for-oia-and-state-football-ascent/