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Normally, Darren Johnson is at no loss for words.

The longtime coach has, in all probability, his most talented team during this latest chapter. The Campbell Sabers have been uber-talented for years, but right now, the may give their old-school guru their best shot an an OIA Open Division title.

Kahuku may have something to say about that. But back to Campbell, which has a showdown with Mililani on Saturday night.

Well, Coach “D.J.” is occupied this week. How about Mililani? Coach Rod York had a minute or two free on Monday morning. The Trojans (1-1) began the season in the fast lane with Saint Louis and nationally ranked Mission Viejo (Calif.).

“Playing those two teams sped up our learning curve. Campbell’s going to be a tough opponent so we’ll find out. It just sucks we’re playing when UH is playing their season-opening game,” said York, a former Hawaii defensive lineman.

It’s not lost on the longtime coach or anyone else from the Ewa Plains to Central Oahu that there has been a bustling switchover of talent. Youth-level talent from the Ewa Beach Sabers enrolling at Mililani. Promising Mill Vill talent winding up at Campbell.

For now, though, gunslingers are approaching the battle at John Kauinana Stadium. One of them is Jaron-Keawe Sagapolutele, who tore up ILH Division II last year with Saint Louis’ JV team. The sophomore hasn’t missed a beat with his hometown school. He already has 663 yards and six touchdowns through the air in two wins. Campbell (2-0) dominated two Division I teams, Kailua (34-0) and Waipahu (51-13). In 45 pass attempts, he had just one interception with a completion rate of 64 percent.

Room to get better? Sixty-four percent in a four-wide offense is enough to keep the chains moving for most QBs. At 14.7 yards per pass attempt, however, Sagapolutele isn’t just threading the needle through tight windows. He is airing out the ball like nobody else this season.

“Campbell has a great quarterback, some speedy receivers and a couple of big linemen,” York said. “I’m talking 6-foot-5, 6-7. Their defense is very athletic. They run well, very distinctive, eyes are disciplined.”

The Trojans haven’t backed down. They controlled the line of scrimmage against Saint Louis, the defending ILH champion. They trailed big early against Mission Viejo, but made a second-half run to stay within striking distance.

“We played very good teams, but football is football. We recognize a lot of our weakness and we’ve worked on them the last two weeks,” York said.

Mililani’s 6-3 wide receiver and punter, Davyn Joseph, has been ruled out.

“He broke his collarbone during practice. He dove for a ball and got injured. So we have a new receiver and a new punter. We’ve got quality receivers. We rotate our guys,” York said.

Sophomore Kini McMillan went from a season-ending injury as a freshman to rehab and the QB lab, then straight into the fire this fall. He has thrown for 583 yards and seven TDs with four picks.

“Kini’s progressing well, but he’s not there yet. He’s very humble, very coachable, the best thing about him,” York said. “He’s learning to stick within the reads. We expect good things from him.”

Getting connected is more than passing fundamentals.

“There’s been a couple (of miscommunications), trying to get the wideouts and slots on the same page, running correct routes. Sometimes it’s not the QB’s fault. Sometimes it’s the receiver and O-line,” York said.

Raymond Roller is difficult to cover solo. The speedster has seven receptions for 159 yards and a TD. Lehiwa Kahana-Travis (six, 121, one) has been superb, but Joseph’s length and big-play capability will be missed. Another Saint Louis transfer, Onosa‘i Salanoa, is part of a deep receiver corps, but unlike his former quarterback, Sagapolutele, Salanoa is simply part of the rotation.

Mililani’s x-factor is Gavin Hunter, a potential game breaker as a cornerback and wide receiver. Hunter already has two TDs. Hunter had a TD catch and an interception against Mission Viejo.

Campbell’s fleet of pass catchers has been busy. Tana Togafau-Tavui, who was a part-time QB last year, has excelled with six grabs for 156 yards and a TD. Dallas Fonseca-Juan (two, 124), RB Rowen Bucao (four, 122, one), Saint Louis transfer Mason Muaau (eight, 112, two) and, Kanoa Ferreira (five, 75, one) and Jourdain Berinobis-Pyne (four, 65, one) give the Sabers one of the deepest receiver groups statewide.

Friday’s games

Punahou (2-0, 0-0 ILH Open) at Waianae (1-1, 0-1 OIA Open), 7:30 p.m.

Three years have passed since these two storied programs met on the gridiron. When Punahou met Waianae at Aloha Stadium, the Buffanblu got solid performances from then-seniors Vincent Terrell and Koa Eldredge, and a freshman quarterback named John-Keawe Sagapolutele notched his fifth win as a starter as Punahou prevailed, 42-0.

One year earlier, in 2018, Punahou made the trek to Waianae and smoked the Seariders, 52-0.

The ’22 Buffanblu have similar momentum following a 35-0 win over Moanalua and a 42-0 shellacking of Castle. A potent ground attack led by 215-pound Alai Williams (164 yards, two TDs, 14 carries) and Iosepa Lyman (86, two, 16 attempts) has alleviated the pressure that was previously on QB John-Keawe Sagapolutele’s shoulders. The senior has thrown the ball just 44 times in two games for 377 yards and three TDs. The deep threat — usually Astin Hange, Noah Macapulay or Kalen Smith — is often open this fall.

Sagapolutele, last spring’s state champion in the discus and shot put, is averaging a robust 8.6 yards per attempt.

The offensive line is at the core of the early success. Left tackle Tayson Ti‘iti‘i, left guard Tu‘i Muti, center Caleb Rhinelander, right guard KJ Hallums and right tackle Skyden Hanisi have the gears and versatility required in Punahou’s balanced offense. The Buffanblu have run the ball 45 times with 44 throws.

Waianae is coming off a 41-6 loss at top-ranked Kahuku. The Seariders are committed to running the ball and did their best work out of a power-I formation. This will be their first home game under new coach Thom Kaumeyer.

Radford (0-1, 0-0 OIA D-I) at Waipahu (1-1, 0-0 OIA D-I), 7:30 p.m.

This is the opener for both teams in league play. The Rams had two weeks to digest a 56-41 loss to defending D-I state champion ‘Iolani. The bye last week also gave them a chance to scout Waipahu in its wipeout loss to Campbell.

Waipahu has a two-game win streak over the Rams and has not lost to them since 2005. Marauders receiver Liatama Uiliata has 17 receptions for 326 yards and two TDs. Uiliata’s yardage total has already surpassed that of last year’s leading receiver, Joseph McKenzie (272 yards in five games).

Moanalua (1-1, 0-0 OIA Open) at Kamehameha (0-1, 0-0 ILH Open), 7:30 p.m.

Na Menehune found their footing in a 16-7 win over a tough Damien squad last week. However, they lost to Punahou 55-0 two weeks ago and Kamehameha’s defense may be on par — or better. The return of some key starters should help Moanalua.

‘Iolani (2-0, 0-0 ILH D-I) at Castle (0-2, 0-0 OIA D-I), 6 p.m.

With 118 points through two games, ‘Iolani nearly matched its hot start of the ’18 season (119 points). Taniela Taliauli has been sensational with 12 receptions for 335 yards and five TDs.

Kaimuki (0-2, 0-1 OIA D-II) vs. Kalani (1-1, 1-0 OIA D-II) at Kaiser, 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs are winless, but finding their groove after scoring 34 points against Pearl City last week. The big question is whether the Bulldogs can make stops. In losses to Waimea and Pearl City, they’ve allowed 105 points.

Kalani opened league play with a 28-7 win over Kalaheo last week. Though the Falcons don’t have a true home field for games, they don’t travel for a true road game until Sept. 24 (at Waialua).

Saturday’s games

Leilehua (0-0-1) at Kahuku (2-0, 1-0 OIA Open), 6:30 p.m.

QB Waika Crawford is a smooth 24-for-36 with 353 yards and five TDs through the air. A lethal ground game led by Clyde Taulapapa (152 yards, 2 TDs, 10.9 yards per attempt) and Va‘aimalae Fonoti (127, three, 11.5 ypc) keeps Crawford in lots of space.

The Mules have shown plenty of mettle, rallying to tie Kailua on the road. Taking care of the ball is crucial, more so against the ball-hawking team in red. Leilehua QBs have already thrown seven interceptions in 79 attempts.

Kaiser (1-1, 1-0 OIA D-II) at Nanakuli (1-1, 1-0 OIA D-II), 6:30 p.m.

Before reaching the D-II state final last year, Kaiser had one difficult game: Nanakuli. The Cougars pulled out a 38-32 win on the road behind Easton Yoshino’s aerial production (321 yards). This year, receivers Makana Naleieha (12, 141, three), Donovan Reis (six, 114, two) and Keagan Lime (six, 106) are busy hauling in passes from Yoshino.

Nanakuli bounced back with a 54-13 win over Waialua last week. One of last year’s mainstays, David Kalili, already has three TD receptions.

Roosevelt (1-0, 0-0 OIA D-I) vs. No. 9 Aiea (1-1, 0-0 OIA D-I) at Radford, 6:30 p.m.

The Rough Riders have not played since beating McKinley 51-7 on Aug. 6.

Pearl City (2-1, 1-0 OIA D-II) vs. McKinley (0-2, 0-1 OIA D-II) at Roosevelt, 6 p.m.

The Chargers got a jolt in a 57-34 win over Kaimuki last week. They have an eight-game win streak over McKinley and have not lost to the Tigers since 1996.

McKinley’s offense has generated two TDs in two games. The Tigers are on a 13-game losing streak dating back to ’19, when they beat Kalaheo, 6-3 (Sept. 7).

Waialua (0-2, 0-1 OIA D-II) vs. Kalaheo (0-3, 0-1 OIA D-II) at Kailua, 6 p.m.

When these programs met in ’21, the Bulldogs pulled out a 21-15 win at home. Kalaheo last beat Waialua in ’18, a 45-0 win at Farrington’s field.

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