Prep World: Clash at Campbell
Kahuku coach Makoa Freitas says running back Enoch Nawahine is his best receiver this season.
Thirty-five years since his senior season as a Kahuku quarterback, Darren Johnson guides Campbell in a showdown between the two programs for first place in the OIA Blue division.
The last time Kahuku traveled to Campbell was 2013, when the Sabers stunned the Red Raiders with a 28-7 win behind quarterback Isaac Hurd. Campbell eliminated Kahuku’s state-tournament possibilities, beat Hilo 42-27 in the quarterfinals and lost to OIA champion Mililani 41-7 in the semifinals.
This year, No. 2-ranked Kahuku (6-1, 6-0) has already clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs. No. 9 Campbell (5-2, 5-1) needs a win to seal the other opening-round bye. A loss to Kahuku would sink the Sabers to third place with no bye.
The Sabers are sometimes explosive on offense with junior Krenston Kaipo (1,591 passing yards, 15 TDs). Early on, he relied heavily on talented sophomore wide receiver Poki‘i Adkins-Kupukaa (34 receptions, 698 yards, eight TDs), but the ground game has developed and the offense has more balance and consistency now.
“Krenston is growing up,” Johnson said. “We’ve been putting a lot on his shoulders. If he makes good decisions, we should be all right offensively. (Tasi) Faumui and (Jacob) Covington, if they can get us four, five yards a clip, anything else is a bonus.”
Four yards would be almost a luxury against a Red Raiders defense that has shut out three foes, allowing just 13 points in five games, not including a forfeit win over Kaiser.
“Kahuku is still the defending OIA champion, and I coached a lot of them,” said Johnson, who has spent many offseasons busy with JPS and 7v7 teams. “Kahuku is physical and they have numbers. When you draw up X’s and O’s, you make their O’s extra big and your X’s average size.”
Kahuku coach Makoa Freitas chuckles when he hears Johnson’s jokes. He also knows the truth embedded in Johnson’s humor.
“Darren’s a good coach. I’m sure he’ll have a good game plan and have his guys fired up to play,” Freitas said, noting that it will be Campbell’s homecoming game. “We have to play error-free, good, solid football.”
What Kahuku already has is an effective, explosive 1-2 tandem with running backs Enoch Nawahine and Sione Mahe. In five games, Nawahine (6-0, 185) has rushed for 568 yards and eight TDs (8.4 yards per attempt). Mahe (6-0, 180), in just two games, has 193 yards and four TDs, and perhaps more importantly, provides exemplary pass protection, Freitas noted.
“We look at Enoch as a good running back, but he’s our best receiver, as well, able to line up against a defensive back or linebacker,” Freitas said.
Even with relatively balanced play-calling — 122 passes and 163 rushes — and healthy production (6.4 yards per play), Freitas and staff are pushing every day for more.
“We have a lot more work to do to get better, including the offensive line. It’s the little things, just studying video, doing our drills, constantly trying to teach,” said Freitas, who played offensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts.
The schedule hasn’t presented many serious challenges, but a 17-0 loss to Bingham (Utah) in Las Vegas on Sept. 9, has been useful.
“After the Bingham loss, we were able to look at what we need to get better at. Playing a good team like that, they’ll let you know what you need to get better at. We have good assistants and we’ve learned from that game,” Freitas said.