Campbell’s Jonan Aina-Chaves and Blaine Hipa provide much-needed balance on offense

Campbell running back Jonan Aina-Chaves had his best game as a Saber against Kapolei. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

Coaches talk about being balanced on offense all the time. It doesn’t happen as much as they want it to, but there was some fantastic symmetry for the fifth-ranked Campbell Sabers on Friday night in a 45-13 sledgehammering of westside rival Kapolei.

Led by Jonan Aina-Chaves and the offensive line, Campbell chewed up 225 rushing yards. At the quarterback spot, Blaine Hipa sprayed the ball liberally to five receivers for 206 yards and five touchdown passes.

That’s the balance coaches talk about, and it led to the Sabers’ victory in the annual Sledgehammah Showdown between the rivals that began in 2016. Both teams now have two wins for that trophy, and Campbell has a 7-6 edge in the overall series.

Aina-Chaves and Sabers coach Darren Johnson were quick to point to that offensive line that made it extra tough to bring down the bulldog-like Aina-Chaves, who finished with 154 yards on 23 carries, pretty much all right up the gut.

Pressed to name one or two offensive linemen that carried the load Friday night, Aina-Chaves took the liberty of naming three and probably would have gone on to name the others if he was given time.

“Thanks to my linemen,” Aina-Chaves said. “For the past week, we worked really hard in practice with a high-paced offense going at it against the defense. It was just a really good week of practice.

“I wanna give a shoutout to Kaimi (Carvalho), Ray (Feagai) and Lyrik (Belaras),” he said. “We didn’t know (if we would have success running up the middle) but we started taking reps and boom, the linemen opened up the holes.”

Johnson credited more up front — Kainoa Trinidad-Pundyke and Shayden Tuzon, among others.

The success of the running game helped open up the passing game and vice-versa. Hipa was a solid 18-for-23, hitting Zavier Ceruti and Titus Mokiao-Atimalala for two TDs each. He also threw a scoring pass to Sky Lactaoen.

Campbell receiver Zavier Ceruti hauled in a long pass from Blaine Hipa over Kapolei defender Branston Gasper-Birgado. Photo by Bruce Asato/Star-Advertiser.

“It’s pick your poisen with them,” Kapolei coach Darren Hernandez said about Campbell (3-3, 2-2 OIA Open). “They run the ball well. They throw the ball well. It’s hard to defend. They’re good everywhere.”

And that includes defense, where the Sabers defended the Hurricanes (3-4, 1-2 Open) exceptionally well, except wide receiver De’Zhaun Stribling, who scored both of Kapolei’s TDs on passes from Mason Gomez and finished with seven catches for 113 yards.

Titus-Mokiao Atimalala had an interception on defense and his older brother Tamatoa also had a stout two-way game in the defensive backfield and as a receiver (four catches for 47 yards). Peter Manuma and Tyrese Tafai also had a big hand in limiting the Hurricanes’ offense.

“We’ve got weapons and we’ve gotta use them and that’s what we tried to do tonight,” Johnson said. “Be simple and use them.”

Offensive lineman Lyrik-Pablo Beleras held up the Sledgehammah trophy after Campbell celebrated Kapolei in the annual rivalry game Saturday. Photo by Nick Abramo / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Added Aina-Chaves about some of those weapons: “Zavier, he always puts work in after practices. He stays behind and catches 100 balls and then goes home. Titus and ‘Toa, they’re game-changers. If we’re losing, they always pick us up and we strike back.”

For sure, it was Aina-Chaves’ best performance in a Sabers’ uniform. He transferred from St. Francis after that school closed at the end of last school year.

“I am thankful to have the opportunity to be coached by DJ (Johnson) and the whole staff and to be playing with my brothers,” he said.


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