Darren Johnson has accomplished things that no other coach in history has, but there is one thing he can do this week that he has never done.
Johnson and his seventh-ranked Campbell Sabers host No. 2 Kahuku on Friday with the OIA Blue title on the line, the 14th time the former Kahuku quarterback has taken on his alma mater as a head coach or assistant.
Johnson, the only coach in history to win OIA titles in football and basketball, is 0-13 in those games, all but two of them as the head coach.
That represents just under a third of all of his losses as a head coach at Kailua, Kaimuki and Campbell.
The grizzled coach, who lives on the North Shore, knows the winning culture at Kahuku as much as anyone. As an assistant at the school under Doug Semones and Reggie Torres, Johnson’s teams went 120-20-2. Add in his time as a 5-foot-6, 145-pound receiver and quarterback for Clarence Lavarias and Johnson has helped bring Big Red 134 victories over the years.
All told, Johnson has had a hand in 215 varsity wins over the years. That seemed to end after the final game of the 2013 season, when the offensive coordinator’s offense was held to 207 total yards (only 67 of them on the ground) and threw three interceptions in a loss to Campbell in the OIA third-place game.
Torres, Johnson and the rest of the coaches left the field that night sharing a sick feeling, but not because they had any idea it would be their last game at Kahuku. Red Raiders receiver Kuuliko Carvalho left the game with a concussion and four broken teeth after a hit by Jerney Tago-Sue of the Sabers. Carvalho recovered, but the frightening moment visibly affected Kahuku’s players.
Three months later Torres was asked to re-apply for his job and didn’t get it when the administration chose Lee Leslie. Johnson declined to re-apply for his jobs as basketball and baseball coach and hasn’t coached those sports since.
Johnson got back into the game this year when Campbell hired him to take over for Amosa Amosa. He already has the program on the verge of a division title, but his alma mater stands in the way.
Although Johnson has not had any luck with the Red Raiders over the years — only three of his losses have been within a touchdown — he certainly knows what it takes to slow Kahuku’s offense.
In his last six meetings with Kahuku, he has allowed only one running back to run for more than 100 yards against him. Dustin Huddy ran for 164 yards against him in 2003, but other legends such as Mulivai Pula (54 and 78 yards), Waika Carvalho (34 and 71), and Allen Kubota (44) have been slowed.
In honor of Friday’s matchup, here is a story from Johnson’s senior year at Kahuku. Click to enlarge it: