>> 6-6 overall, 3-2 OIA Open Division
>> Darren Johnson is 21-16 in three years with the Sabers and 94-51-1 overall in 13 seasons with three different schools.
KEY UNDERCLASSMEN IN 2019
>> WR/DB Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, 6-1, 170, Jr.; LB/RB Peter Manuma, 6-0, 175, Jr.; QB Blaine Hipa, 6-1, 175, So.; S Blesyng Alualu-Tuiolemotu, 5-11, 170, Fr.; OL/DL Ieremia Leamota Jr., 6-0, 240, Fr.
CAMPBELL THROUGH THE YEARS: 1963-2019
HISTORICAL EQUIVALENT: 1964 Radford
That a good team like the 2019 Campbell Sabers were average by almost every measure speaks to just how tough it was in the Open Division.
Campbell finished the season 6-6 and made it to the state semifinals before losing to OIA champion Kahuku after finally seeming to have the Red Raiders figured out. The Sabers scored 337 points in 12 games this season and allowed 338, a point differential of -0.1. The two teams in history to have the same point differential and also won six games — Darren Hernandez‘s 1995 Campbell squad (6-3) and John Velasco‘s 1964 Radford crew (6-5) — but they did not face anything close to the schedule Darren Johnson did in 2019.
Campbell’s 28.1 points per game were the school’s most in Johnson’s tenure and the most for the school since Amosa Amosa‘s 2014 team ran the run-and-shoot to a 28.6 mark. The defense allowed a full field goal more points per game than last year, coming in at 28.2 after a 24.9 in 2018, but this year’s numbers are inflated by two blowouts at the hands of Kahuku. It was the worst defensive number for Campbell since everything went wrong for Amosa and the Sabers in 2015 and gave up 31 points per game. That makes those two units the second- and third-worst for the school in the Prep Bowl era, behind only Dave Itokazu‘s 29.8 mark in 1973.
Johnson has always ran offenses behind a bruising offensive line and single running back, but when he got to receiver-rich Ewa Beach he flipped the script. The numbers were the same as last year, passing 53 percent of the time, and the offense ran only one more offensive play per game than last year.
With his new balanced philosophy, Johnson entrusted the offense to Blaine Hipa as quarterback even though the sophomore threw only 40 passes as the third-string quarterback in his freshman year. Hipa rewarded his coach’s confidence in him, putting up a season to rival Isaac Hurd‘s in 2013. Hipa put the ball up an incredible 348 times for 2,582 yards and 31 touchdowns, behind only Lalo Respicio‘s 2,869 for the school’s single-season yardage mark. Should Hipa continue on as Campbell’s quarterback for the next two years, he would need only 1,569 yards in each season to join Hawaii’s select 6,000-yard club for a career. Hipa, who was second to Jayden de Laura in Open Division passing this year, threw at least one touchdown in every game except for one but was plagued by 18 interceptions, 11 of them against fellow state championship qualifiers Mililani, Saint Louis and Kahuku. He enjoyed his best game against Punahou, going 20-for-29 for 301 yards and two touchdowns while only turning the ball over once. That effort made him just the seventh Saber to exceed 300 yards passing in a game, joining Respicio, Hurd, Krentson Kaipo, Vince Lemau, Rodney Tavui and Frank Galase. Hipa threw four or more touchdowns in five different games, including a five-score performance against rival Kapolei to help keep the Hamma home. Peter Manuma was the only other Saber to throw a pass this season, leaving the offense completely on Hipa’s shoulders.
Johnson made a curious choice concerning his running game. With Sky Lactaoen coming off the school’s first 1,000-yard rushing season since Mapa Malupo way back in 2002, the senior received only 24 carries this year. He sat in favor of incoming St. Francis transfer Jonan Aina-Chaves, who led the team with 804 yards and five touchdowns. Aina-Chaves got 47 percent of the team’s carries despite missing the OIA playoffs and states. He did put together four straight games over the century mark before hitting the bench, the first to do that since Malupo in 2002. Lactaoen received more than nine carries in only one game, going for 45 yards in a win over O’Connor (Ariz.), and he got only four carries after Aina-Chaves hit the shelf.
The team never had a running threat after that, giving limited carries to Cameron Mercado and Cameron Sloan. When they did run, they trusted Manuma (6-48 in postseason) and Tyrese Tafai (5-25-1). Hipa was effective outside of the pocket, running for 79 yards on 73 carries with sacks included and scoring four touchdowns.
But Hipa was not looking to make plays with his legs unless he absolutely had to, given the talent he had at receiver led by Titus Mokiao-Atimalala. The junior led the team with 62 catches, 1,136 yards and 18 touchdowns even though the receptions and yardage were down from his previous year because of a knee injury suffered in the middle of the season. Mokiao-Atimalala still has a season left to play and is already fourth all-time in career receiving behind only Miah Ostrowski of Punahou, Gerald Welch of Saint Louis and Punahou product Kanawai Noa.
Mokiao-Atimalala scored 16 of his 18 touchdowns in the first seven games and opened the season with a 179-yard effort against Mililani, good enough for second place on the school’s single-game yardage list behind teammate Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa‘s 204 against Farrington in 2017.
Mokiao-Atimala broke the century mark in three successive games three times in his career — no other Campbell receiver has ever done it even once. Having the most prolific public school receiver in the history of Hawaii high school was obviously a luxury for Hipa, but Mokiao-Atimala was far from the only threat at Campbell. Zavier Ceruti emerged to haul in 40 passes for 640 yards and 10 touchdowns and Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala collected 44 catches for 427 yards and two touchdowns. Ceruti announced his presence with 146 yards and two touchdowns in the second week against Farrington and might have been the most reliable receiver in the postseason with 18 catches for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala became the possession guy in the postseason with 16 catches but broke the plane only once. The return of Adkins-Kupukaa gave Campbell an embarrassment of riches at the position, catching four passes during the playoffs. Manuma and Aina-Chaves were threats out of the backfield in the first month of the season, but only had two catches for 28 yards after that.
The future certainly looks bright with Hipa and Titus Mokiau-Atimalala returning next year, but Campbell’s Achilles Heel this season was depth behind the starters, causing a lot of players to go both ways despite the hefty roster. That is not optimal for a program expected to compete with the best in the state, especially trying to replace stars like Adkins-Kupukaa, Tafai, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala, Aina-Chaves, Ceruti and Lactaoen. Titus Mokiao-Atimalala will be in a leadership role for a team that will have a close loss to Kahuku on its minds, but fellow rising seniors like Manuma are going to have to stay on the youngsters all summer. Luckily there are plenty of youngsters to mold, with six freshman and 17 sophomores on the roster by the end of the year.
2019 TEAM STATS
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