There is no beat other than upbeat for Darren Johnson.
The first-year Campbell football coach has long-term hopes for the program, a dream of unifying the football community to maximum strength. For Johnson, that means keeping the district’s football talent right there at Campbell.
He and his staff are giving future Sabers plenty to enjoy. Campbell (7-4) lost in the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I football semifinals at Kahuku, but the two-week swing until Saturday’s third-place matchup with Waianae (at Aloha Stadium) could be a blessing in disguise. A win puts Campbell into the state tourney. A loss ends the season.
Johnson chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Friday morning.
HPW: The playoffs ravaged some rosters. Some of the teams are now out. Some, like yours, are still in.
Johnson: Early in the season, we lost an offensive lineman who’s really good, Wally (Sir-Wallace Chanel). He should’ve been our starting center and we’ve had troubles off and on. We’ve had to make switches and transitions. Guys have made sacrifices for the sake of the team
HPW: You also lost RBs. Jacob Covington (collarbone) got hurt against Leilehua, and Tasi Faumui got hurt.
Johnson: We got (RB Viliami) Vaimoui back. Hopefully, he can do some good things. (RB) Sky (Lactaoen) is back from injury. We lost a good D-tackle (Isaac Sevao) in the Leilehua game (knee).
HPW: Campbell has won four of the last six games against Waianae.
Johnson: I tell them you’ve got to build your own history by doing your job and playing hard and being disciplined in assignment football.
HPW: How has practice gone the past week?
Johnson: It was better than I thought it would be. If you’re playing in November, at least you’re still playing. The objective is to be playing in November every year.
HPW: Waianae had some struggles and a tough early-season schedule, and they beat Campbell at Waianae in the regular season. But both teams have matured and grown more since then.
Johnson: Waianae, their early-season losses were surprise losses, but Waianae is Waianae. You never take them easy. They’re Waianae. Sometimes the team might be down, like Punahou, but they’re still a good football team. And you see what Kamehameha did at the end of their season. We want to be one of those teams that’s always there.
HPW: The timing of the OIA title game and third-place game is also during week one of the state tournament (in D-I and D-II). Your game feels like a state-tourney game because it’s a do-or-die situation.
Johnson: It really feels like a state-tournament game. I really commend the OIA for setting this up. We got our rest. At states, you almost don’t want that (first-round) bye. You want to be on a roll. Sometimes, too much time off hurts the timing. We all know there’s going to be changes next time. I always hope it’s for the better. The schedule guys do what’s best for the league so I really don’t have any complaints at all. They all worked hard on it. The amount of time they put into. I’m so glad they’re doing this now. Before, there was the (Oahu) Prep Bowl and everybody else was done. Everywhere in America, you have your bigger schools, and smaller schools. Waialua was a great example last year. Kalani is playing with schools they’re compatible with.
HPW: Have you as coaches and the team talked about the elimination situation?
Johnson: We haven’t talked about do or die. We talk about controlling what we want to do, going out and playing your best football game whether we win or lose. If the other team wins, so be it.
HPW: We’ve discussed some of the Campbell players who have been under the radar. Is there anyone else who fits that bill?
Johnson: Tyrese (Tafai) has played good football all season. Mose Timoteo, our left guard, has progressed through the season really nice. Our defensive unit has played better football every week. We’ve put them through some bad situations offensively, but they’ve played well.
HPW: Waianae will bring their physical offensive attack and Rico Rosario out of the backfield.
Johnson: Rico is a special RB. HE’s a beastly RB. If nobody was blocking for him he’s still running over people. He always runs hard. Their QB (Justin Tacgere) does a good job managing their offense. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s a smart QB. They’ve got some smart players on their football team.