By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
PASADENA — Jonah Campbell had a busy summer, perhaps more so than others.
Because he’s a three-sport athlete at Pasadena Poly, Campbell evenly split his summer schedule so it included football, basketball and baseball.
He spent the first two days of the week working quarterback duties for the Panthers, followed by basketball the next two days. He spent the weekend working with the baseball team, for whom Campbell is a center fielder.
Campbell said his summer schedule was “strenuous” but it paid dividends.
“In the long run it helped me out because the workouts were working out different muscles,” he said. “As football approached, I felt a lot better with my running and my speed.”
Campbell enters his senior year knowing he’s the go-to guy. He was backup quarterback last season to Hunter Merryman, the Star-News Male Athlete of the Year who earned first-team All-CIF honors in three sports.
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His mindset is different this season as opposed to last year, when Campbell suffered a knee injury in a summer tournament that sidelined him the first five games of the season. In a true testament to his strong work ethic and pure athletic ability, Campbell returned and played linebacker and tight end. He earned second-team All-Prep League honors despite a shortened season.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder said replacing someone like Merryman (1,804 yards, 21 touchdowns) won’t be easy.
“Definitely, because I know I have large shoes to fill,” Campbell said. “He was so consistent with his playing, and now I have to follow an athlete like that.”
Pasadena Poly coach Brendan McGrail understands Campbell and Merryman are two different quarterbacks. Merryman, because of his size at 6-6, stood in the pocket and waited for plays to develop. Campbell is more mobile and will give the Panthers another dimension to their offense.
“Jonah can move,” McGrail said, “which is nice because we can roll out and run bootleg and motion.
“He can be more fluid and mobile.”
Pasadena Poly’s skill positions enjoyed depth and experience last year, but the offensive line wasn’t so lucky. This year, though, it’s the other way around — the skill-position players are young and inexperienced while the offensive line is massive and loaded with a wealth of experience.
Pasadena Poly has five seniors on the line, led by left tackle Jordan Olivar, who stands an intimidating 6-7, 280 pounds. Daniel Leon (6-3, 290) is the center, and Nathan Hamming (6-3, 220) is at left guard. The line is rounded out by Lars Acosta at right guard and Matt Liu at right tackle.
Campbell will enjoy the benefit of strong protection, but look for senior tailback Harrison Hodgkins (635 yards, nine touchdowns last season) to reap the benefits, too.
“He’ll just run right behind them and find the gaps,” McGrail said.
“There’s a lot of presence up front,” Campbell said. “We have three 300-pounders blocking my blind side.”
And because the Panthers are young at the skill positions, establishing the run will be first and foremost.
“You win in the trenches,” McGrail said. “And we have the size.”
Olivar and Leon played only defense last year, but with lack of depth, both will play on the offensive line. Hamming, a first-team Star-News All-Area defensive lineman who recorded 16.5 sacks, will move from defensive end to middle linebacker.
“He has great change direction; he’s fast,” McGrail said. “We moved him in the summer and he’ll be directing our defense from back there.”