Phoenix team will take another crack at Campbell on Thursday

Campbell's Darren Johnson again faces Kahuku in the OIA Open Division playoffs with a spot in the title game on the line. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Steve Casey and Darren Johnson are very good friends. At one time, Casey was Johnson’s coach.

Now, they’re going to be going at it for the second year in a row on Thursday night, when Casey’s Sandra Day O’Connor Eagles take on Johnson’s Campbell Sabers in Ewa Beach.

A year ago, the Sabers defeated the Eagles 37-20 in Phoenix.

“We’ve been blessed to be here on this trip,” Casey said via cell phone Wednesday afternoon.

O’Connor (1-1) arrived Monday and practiced three days in a row on Campbell’s home field. On Tuesday, the Eagles visited Pearl Harbor. On Wednesday, they took a trip to the North Shore to see the Polynesian Cultural Center.

“We’re focusing on the game, too,” he said. “This has been a great trip for the kids, the family and the administration.”

The team is staying at Hampton Inn & Suites in Kapolei.

“We had been trying to set up a game for a long time,” Casey said about his talks with Johnson. “We were able to get it done last year when they started giving Hawaii teams an open week. They were gracious guests last year and they’re gracious young men again this year.

“We know that football in Hawaii is physical. It’s physical compared to the mainland and it’s as physical as any team in Arizona. Campbell plays hard and physical and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Eagles are seeing a hungry Sabers squad that is off to a 1-3 start, but still ranked No. 5 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 after losses to No. 1 Saint Louis, No. 2 Mililani and No. 4 Kahuku.

“We run the spread offense and try to be about 60-40 pass-run,” Casey said. “We’re young in some areas, but we’ve got experience at receiver and our quarterback was the backup last year. The line has three returnees back. On defense, we run a 3-3 and we graduated all six guys up front last year. We’re not big at all on defense and our strength is in the secondary.”

Casey, who is a former Virginia Tech quarterback, remembers the 2018 contest against Campbell as a “great game.”

“We were tied at halftime and we had a couple of chances on plays that we didn’t make,” he said. “We had them pinned on the goal line, but they had a long run and we made some mistakes and they put it together in the fourth quarter and took it away from us.”

In the 1980s, Casey was the wide receivers coach when Johnson played at Arizona Western. Then, in 1989, Johnson was the wide receivers coach there under Casey as the head coach.

“He was a heckuva football player,” Casey said about Johnson. “He was a receiver for us. He was fast and he had a passion for the game. He was a great young man and a great leader. We had quite a few Polynesian kids and he was the leader of that pack. His career got cut short because of concussions when he went to play for Akron.”

The O’Connor team will hit the North Shore beaches on Friday and fly home Saturday.

“We’ll show up and give them a good contest (Thursday),” Casey added.


  1. Deborah September 5, 2019 5:14 pm

    Go Strong Eagles🦅Bring a Win Home
    Give that 💯+ you always bring to the
    Game… Go Strong Phoenix🏈🏈🏈🏈

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