Campbell is not quite the same team that played most of this regular football season.
The fifth-ranked Sabers (8-4), who play in the state Open Division semifinals against second-ranked Mililani (9-2) Friday evening at Aloha Stadium, have made adjustments and the whole package is now a bit more snug.
“We needed to go with guys who are going to make plays, and we’ve got playmakers who can make plays,” Campbell coach Darren Johnson said Wednesday. “This is about the team, and it’s about putting our studs on the field. There’s only one football and there’s only one team, too, and the team will always come first. Everybody understands that.”
Peter Manuma, a sophomore, went from running back to a hybrid linebacker. He is still used as a running back when needed.
Receivers Titus Mokiao-Atimalala and brother Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala are now playing a full-time role on defense, too. Titus is a safety and Tamatoa is a corner.
Athletic safety Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa is not relegated to defensive duty any more, and has been playing a starring role as a receiver.
Johnson said switching Manuma to defense was because he needed someone to fill the shoes of the dynamic but injured Tyrese Tafai.
“We want to get the best athletes on the field and keep them on the field,” Johnson said. “I watched Titus and Tamatoa play youth football and knew they could play defense. Basically, Pokii, Titus and Tamatoa stay on the field the whole game. We need to score points, and to do that we need to put the ball in our playmakers’ hands.”
Another change for Campbell occurred in a 42-26 OIA third-place victory over Farrington. It happened at quarterback, when freshman Blaine Hipa made a surprise start and showed immediate brilliance.
But, according to Johnson, senior QB Krenston Kaipo will start Friday against Mililani.
“He has the maturity, so he is going to start,” Johnson said. “Hipa will definitely play.”
Johnson mentioned that he’s got a bunch of players he thinks would be a good fit for playing at the University of Hawaii, starting with Manuma.
“He’s 6-1 and only a sophomore,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping he gets an early offer from UH. He’s the type of kid that once UH goes in, everybody is going to go in on. There’s three or four others, real local boys who like to stay home because they love where they’re from — Tamatoa, Titus, Pokii and Tyrese. And Sir-Wallace Chanel, an offensive lineman, I’m hoping UH takes a shot on.”
As for Mililani, Johnson believes there’s “no chance” Trojans coach Rod York and his boys are going to take the Sabers lightly, even though Mililani beat Campbell 52-14 in a regular-season game on Sept. 15.
“It’s like this,” Johnson said. “If you’re playing in the state tournament and you are one of the top four teams, you’ve got a shot. We think we’re one of the top four teams and deserve to be there. There are people out there who have reservations about the third-place OIA team being there. But I look at it like anybody can beat anybody on any given day. That’s why we play the games. We’re glad to be part of it.
“Rod York is a very good coach and they have a very good staff and I know they are not taking us for granted in any way, shape or form. He didn’t get that program to where it is by taking people for granted.”