No. 5 Campbell comes tantalizingly close to beating No. 3 Kahuku

Campbell head coach Darren Johnson yelled at an official during the second half of a HHSAA Open Division semifinal on Friday. Jamm Aquino/

Darren Johnson, a grown man with a hard-nosed football past, was crying real tears after talking to his players.

His eyes were fully watered and red.

That’s love.

His Campbell Sabers had just come oh-so-close to moving on to the Open Division title game of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Football Championships at Aloha Stadium.

It got away, though, in the semifinals on Friday night at Aloha Stadium.

No. 5 Campbell led by three at the half before No. 3 Kahuku gained the momentum along with an 11-point lead.

It was far from over when the fourth quarter hit. The Sabers gallantly came back before succumbing on a just-missed tying 2-point conversion pass with 16 seconds left.

There was one more chance, though. Senior Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala recovered the onside kick. It gave the Sabers two more plays from Kahuku’s 34 — not far from field-goal range that, if the situation arose, could have possibly given them the needed three points to win — but it was not to be.

In the end, Kahuku (9-3) walked away with a 21-19 victory to move on to the state final next Friday.

For Campbell, the season is over at 6-6. But for the second year in a row at states, they put a full-on scare into their opponents. A year ago, it was a 20-2 state semifinal loss to Mililani that was closer than the final score shows.

This loss is going to be hard to take as the days go by, according to Johnson.

“They played hard, they played hard,” he said about his boys. “They played the way they’re supposed to play. I just wanted them to come out victorious. I know what they’re made of. I know we can win.”

The turf at Aloha Stadium gave some extra impetus to the Sabers, who bogged down twice earlier this year to Kahuku on the Red Raiders’ grass field — 35-7 and 46-0.

This time, it was a different story. Blaine Hipa threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Four receivers — Zavier Ceruti, Sky Lactaoen, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala and his younger brother Titus Mokiao-Atmimala, combined to catch 23 of his 29 completed passes on 39 targets.

Campbell was missing standout running back Jonan Aina-Chaves, who did not suit up for undisclosed reasons, and the team wound up being held to minus-23 yards rushing.

Trailing 21-10 at the end of three quarters, Campbell roared back on Taylor Chase‘s 24-yard field goal.

Then things began to get really interesting.

Blesyng Alualu-Tuiolemotu blocked a Kahuku punt in Red Raiders territory, but the Sabers couldn’t punch it in late in the fourth quarter when Hipa’s QB sneak from the 1-inch line was stuffed.

But because Kahuku was pinned in its own end, the Sabers got it back with 1:09 to go, and Hipa found Titus Mokiao-Atimalala with a 24-yard TD pass in the left, front corner of the end zone. Only two points away now, 21-19.

And it was nearly tied up on Hipa’s pass to Titus Mokiao-Atimalala. The lob was about to sail over the head of Tomasi Pasi, but the Red Raiders defensive back tipped it enough to divert the ball. It looked like it was going to go right in Mokiao-Atimalala’s hands. He actually got his paws on it a few feet off the ground, but it rolled to the turf.

“The ball was actually supposed to go the opposite way, but Blaine didn’t have anything over there,” Titus Mokiao-Atimalala said. “He needed help, so I told him to throw it up and I’ll try to make a play. I saw that it was tipped and I tried to get under it, but it hit the ground before I could get to it.”

Said Johnson: “We threw it to the right guy. Nine out of 10 times, he would have made that play.”

Asked how his players are responding to the loss, Johnson added, “They have a lot of heart, a lot of guts, a fighting attitude. We wanted to come out victorious. They’re all right right now, but it hits you two days later. It’s going to hit me hard. It’s going to be hard to carry.”

Hipa and Titus Mokiao-Atimalala will be back for his senior year next season and will be trying to get Campbell over the staggeringly difficult state hump.

“I feel bad for the seniors, my brother, and all of my brothers who are seniors,” he said. “I wanted to win for them. The fact that we couldn’t pull it off, it hurts me. I made too many mistakes, but I promise I’ll be back next year. We showed character and we were able to dig deep inside our hearts. We knew we wanted it. It didn’t go our way. There’s some stuff we couldn’t control. It is what it is.”

Campbell quarterback Blaine Hipa nearly led his team over Kahuku on Friday.
Jamm Aquino/


  1. ??? November 22, 2019 10:15 pm

    Close only counts in Horseshoes & Hand grenades.

  2. Trojan Warriorette November 22, 2019 10:54 pm

    I don’t whose coaching shirts are uglier. Is it Campbell’s or Miililani’s?


  3. Good Story November 23, 2019 7:37 am

    Shot out to Coach DJ and Coach Kawe
    Outstanding job in getting your boys ready for this game. Ofa atu to you both.

  4. HailFromDaNorth November 23, 2019 8:37 am

    Hats off to the boys from Ewa beach! Sabers came ready to battle!! Fought hard all the way! But as time will tell over and over, the Red Raider Spirit will always come ready for battle and shine when it get tough, people outside looking in will say “KAHUKU sucks, they have no offense, and the defense can’t stop Saint Louis” but the people from the community, the alumni they all know that on any given day. These boys from the North Shore can shock the world! We did it before, when no one could come close, when everyone counted us out, when no one came close to taking the reign. The task might look impossible, but if theirs a group of kids who would be up for the task. It would be these boys from the North Shore. Let’s give it one more game boys! RED RAIDERS FOR LIFE! #HeaWeKo #RR4L

  5. Hahaja November 23, 2019 9:04 am

    Red raiders get ready for a blow out this week, the Red Sea ain’t coming cuz they know better what the outcome going be. They rather protest then make the drive .

  6. LOu November 23, 2019 10:30 am

    Go RR. Get prepared for StL. Play hard. Heads up high. In the BIGDANCE. Always a proud small community. Unbelievable community talented kids. Hard to beat a million dollar machine. Hard to beat a Statewide recruited All star roster. At least in the 80”s recruits only was Oahu residence. Once Saints win their 4th title, OIA should walk away from this sham set up. ILH crying about Punahou not being in. Lol. They had 2 cracks, did they want 3?4?….? Their cry was about playing each other too much in the old format. I agree with ILH it’s a sham. Just walk away from this OPEN.

  7. Huh??? November 23, 2019 12:19 pm

    Campbell’s freshmen center was all of 5’7” 170lbs, didn’t Campbell have anyone else with more width and weight, I saw a few on the sideline I would rather play just for their size.

  8. Zazu November 23, 2019 12:27 pm

    Walking away from the opening means you don’t want to step up to the challenge, what a coward to walk away from it . You want to play the best , not be the best because you walking all over the smaller schools . To the above , Kahuku should’ve played mililani twice for the oia title . But then again it doesn’t matter St. Louis is just at another level from the others. The Red Sea can’t stand being behind saint Louis and want to walk away because they are cowards, crybaby’s . What a shame with the athletes and size of kids that’s they have . All I have to say is , get a real head coach and maybe things might change out here.

  9. HailFromDaNorth November 23, 2019 12:46 pm

    @zazu only a few feel that way. For me it’s all good. As I said in previous post. It’s good to have a #6 ranked National ranked Hawaii team. Only only do college recruits start looking at Saint Louis, they also look at other Hawaii teams. It’s beneficial for everyone. For me it’s about getting these talented boys out to a D-1 school and not just about state titles. Hopefully the Red Sea shows up to support the boys. And praying KAHUKU can come up with an upset, but it’s not without a big respect for coach Cal and the Saint Louis program. Let’s go out and compete all BS aside, keep it respectful and leave it on the field. May the best team win. #RR4L #TheBiggerPicture #D1Colleges

  10. ItIsWhatItIs November 23, 2019 1:21 pm

    The more I read HailFromDaNorth the more I respect him. You line up against the other team and play your heart out…. period. No crying about this or that. Strap it up, put your mouth piece in and play!! I remember when everyone was crying about Kahuku being to big, and they were stealing players from Samoa and Utah. Blah, blah, blah. I’m tired of all this victim talk. Maybe that’s why our society today is the way it is.
    Hail… I’ll be your teammate any day. Good Luck to both teams

  11. OpenFootballSupporter November 23, 2019 1:30 pm

    I’m all for the Open format. Teams will only get better playing the best. Punahou had 2 cracks at it. If they don’t win, it’s on them.
    To the StL fans, be humble. U guys have the overwhelming talent and coaching experience edge. Be proud of the brotherhood for cultivating great young men and tbh….opening up opportunities for the few that have extraordinary football talent. The wins are expected.

  12. ??? November 23, 2019 1:52 pm

    All you STL fans, alumni & bandwagon fans are “HILARIOUS”.
    All of you on here talking about Waianae, Kahuku, Mililani etc.. needs to step up?
    Picture yourself without 90 players, 20 something coaches, recruiting any athlete in the STATE and great facilities and equipment?
    Now go play Punahou and see how well you would stack up against them? After they “Whoop” you let them tell you you guys need to step up your game! LMAO…

  13. Truth November 23, 2019 1:58 pm

    Think about it, who has the better athletes ? Kahuku has major talent with athletes and enormous size . Again one word , coaching , coaching , coaching . Kahuku would’ve have a way better team this year if they had coaching . Straight up. Half the Saint Louis coaches out there are there just to where the logo , the master minds are the Lee’s and several other coaches . With kahuku offense , you tell me if they belong ? Isn’t it boring football and out dated ?

  14. RedRooted November 23, 2019 2:49 pm

    Awesome job DJ…we all knew you wasn’t going lay down…Hopefully you and your son will come back to Kahuku …
    As, for as this Open Division..Like someone posted earlier, it’s a Big Sham..Only benefits the ILH “Private schools “…Totally different rules “Open
    Districts ” and Way,Way,more money. .Just put the Facts up..How much is Coach Cal getting paid, compared to Coach DJ…If someone has that info DO TELL .They have literally took over the whole thing…They even show Advertising ” commercials ” to attend their schools…Before they didn’t even play on OC16.
    They have enough talent in the Public Schools to stay competitive…If anyone who says it’s an even playing field, they must be from a Private school or has a kid playing there…

  15. 96730289 November 23, 2019 3:49 pm

    Do NOT end the open. If the OIA decides to shut the ILH out of the tourney, the State Title will mean absolutely nothing. The ILH has always recruited, but Kahuku, Leilehua, and Mililani all found ways to win a state title. Yes, if STL wins this year it will be four years straight, but I remember them winning what? 13 Prep Bowls in a row or something along that line.
    Red Raiders…time to step up and show the rest of the island that you don’t need fancy football turf or world class weight rooms to be a champion. GO BIG RED!!!

  16. Sole November 23, 2019 4:00 pm

    Coach cal gets paid way more, but don’t u get it it’s a “private school” like any other private school in the nation . I swear you people are like little big baby’s

  17. Truthhurts November 23, 2019 4:20 pm

    Two coaches are picking teams one coach is told that he can pick players from only a certain area the other coach is told that he can pick players from wherever he wants after the teams are set they play each other…. sound fair to you? that’s why when we win we celebrate like there’s no tomorrow we cheer, we brag ,yeah it’s a bit overboard but it’s because we do something that’s not supposed to happen we beat a team that has no restrictions we play with our own we win with our own that’s why it’s extra special the feeling is extra special

  18. ??? November 23, 2019 4:54 pm

    That’s the whole point! If you can handpick your players like STL does than you can run your specific offense year in & year out; but if you’re dealt with different type of kids each year you have to gear your offense around their skills (Kahuku always big with some athletes).
    Ron Lee would have a hard time running the R&S at Kahuku even with his genius.

  19. Cryhyn November 23, 2019 7:49 pm

    No forget, now Lee is poaching other high schools. DE Laura, poached from Damien. So besides Statewide, now other varsity high school teams. Wow.

  20. ItIsWhatItIs November 23, 2019 9:34 pm

    Only ILH can get kids from out of district? Are you kidding me. Every single team in the open division has kids from outside their boundaries! “Poaching” kids? Kids and parents WANT to send their boys their. Why? Because of coaching and opportunities. If you as a family want to send your kids to private school cool, if you want to stay and play for your community school awesome, heck if you live in town and want to play for Mililani go for it. Go where it is best for you and your family situation. They don’t need to recruit. And about the 20 coaches please stop. Most of the coaches are alumni of STL. So if you want your school to have 20 coaches go out and coach. And anyone who says STL has million dollar facilities obviously never stepped foot on that campus. Shut down the open, have Punahou and STL play mainland teams only, and watch the division one offers for other schools in hawaii decline.

  21. Laughing too loud November 24, 2019 10:32 am

    Kahuku no recruit? Lol I’m rolling laughing. Trust me I know inside sources of where Kahuku get these kids from off island relating to family. And some of these kids birth certificates are altered cause they coming from these so called islands lol. Give me a break, Kahuku has a stretch of more than 25 miles which is part of there district . From sunset all the way past kaawa. Now you tell me that’s not a long stretch? Any kid can go to any school , there are ways around it. Mililani , Campbell , kapolei , and the so called don’t recruit “Kahuku” does it. All you PCC crybabies are jokes.

  22. Michael Freitas November 24, 2019 10:03 pm

    Bro everybody should cheer for there school keep it at that because at the end of the day we like see all local kids getting scholarships and hawaii proud enough with crying and making excuses all the guys is from the island all brothers so let’s enjoy and cheer for all

  23. Thinkaboutit November 24, 2019 11:07 pm

    If Ilh and oia had a rule to cap rosters at 65-70players for all levels from intermediate, Jv, varsity people would think twice about the school they went to. more teams would be stacked ,kids would get more playing time, and less kids would get false hopes … the playing field even out .

  24. Your Favorite Critic November 25, 2019 10:45 pm

    OIA & ILH are both guilty of recruiting players. OIA bringing out of district kids & using different residence addresses is “recruiting”. ILH schools across the board have opportunities to recruit players because of their funding. But the point thats missed here is that these kids do not wake up the next day & just become great athletes. The team doesn’t just show up to games & win without grinding all week. All of these players & teams put in the work with great coaches to be a top tier team/ athlete. People love to criticize the success of consistency. Yet they fail to realize that these players & coaches put in their diligence to define their teams & players. Like anything else, if the team was below mediocre nobody would care. It is only when teams & coaches are successfully consistent every year is when people have something to say.

    Just let the kids play!
    Stop crying on the sidelines. If you think otherwise. Go volunteer yourself to make a few hundred bucks a season teaching the players what you think you know.

  25. EWA BEACH November 28, 2019 3:34 pm

    Cmon boys Im proud of our sabers.. good season boys. I know for a fact that down here in the 76south ANY LOCAL BOY/GIRL that excells at any sport/activity we cheer and support, cuz we feel just to show the states what hawaii has is PRIDE AND ALOHA… so good luck to all teams and players still in the states and lets have some good clean respectful football..
    *But the 05′ llws team from ewa beach ALL recieved scholarships from STL H.S. for the next year… (jus saying)

  26. EWA BEACH November 28, 2019 3:36 pm

    Cmon boys Im proud of our sabers.. good season boys. I know for a fact that down here in the 76south ANY LOCAL BOY/GIRL that excells at any sport/activity we cheer and support, cuz we feel just to show the states what hawaii has is PRIDE AND ALOHA… so good luck to all teams and players still in the states and lets have some good clean respectful football..
    *But the 05′ llws team from ewa beach ALL recieved scholarships from STL H.S. for the next year… (jus saying)

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