Sabers Practicing Hard In Off-Season With Eye On Title

Today’s prototypical running back has to play physical and fast, and there’s no doubt that Campbell senior Paul Andrew Rhoden can do both. He has a special place in his heart for blocking, however.

“There are a lot of fun parts to playing running back that I like, but the most fun is probably when you’re blocking and you pancake someone (drive the opponent onto his back). After that, running guys over for touchdowns and helping my team win is my favorite.”

“Pancake blocks” are often the result not just of technique, but of time spent in the weight room. The Campbell weight room has become Rhoden’s second home during the so-called off-season.

Head coach Amosa Amosa had given Rhoden and his teammates last week off from football-related activities with a long season set to officially begin with fall camp next week, but they stayed the course last week and worked out on their own.

“This was supposed to be our week off,” laughed Rhoden, who credits his mother, Coleen Chang, for instilling in him his work ethic. “But we’ve been getting together every day anyway. We’re usually in the weight room from 10:30 to 12 before we practice. We’re building camaraderie when we work out. We’re a close-knit group.

“Part of our motivation comes from not having been able to go all the way last year. We had to push even more this off-season to get there (to the post-season) and hopefully win both (the OIA title and the state title). Every school out here thinks about winning both.”

Campbell went 8-3 last season, including a fourth-place finish in the OIA tournament, which left them a game short of qualifying for the DI state football championships. Among the reasons for the Sabers’ success was a high-scoring offense.

Rhoden and fellow running back Triston Pebria help balance out an attack that usually incorporates four receiver-sets. “I like the offense,” Rhoden said of Amosa’s run-and-shoot. “It allows us to score early. We have four wide receivers out there, and that’s hard for defenses to cover. Tristan and I keep the defense honest. It keeps them guessing. It’s a potent offense.”

They each averaged over six yards per carry last season. Rhoden has played basketball at Campbell and ran track and field as well, but his natural instincts for football guarantee his emphasis is mostly there.

Last winter, he tried wrestling. “I didn’t like wrestling one bit,” Rhoden laughed. “Basketball is definitely my winter sport.”

Rhoden spent his early Campbell career getting used to his environment after his family relocated from Columbus, Ga., in the months prior to his freshman year. “It was a bit of culture shock,” he admitted. “I’d had no exposure to Hawaii at all, and it took me a while. I didn’t understand the accent here, and I was shy at first.”

The Sabers open their 2012 season Aug. 17 with a road date against Kailua.

Campbell’s home opener is set for the following weekend versus Aiea.