Hunter Campau consistently finds new ways to help ninth-ranked Timberline High School win football games.
Nick Mullen, in his 10th season of coaching the Blazers — and second year of his second stint — thinks back over quarterbacks like Kevin Russell, Delas Raiford and Gabe Gutierrez, and says Campau is as good as any he’s coached.
He’s never had a Blazers quarterback pass for more than 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards as Campau has already done this season.
Or be handy on defense.
Midway through the third quarter of last week’s Class 3A South Sound Conference finale against Yelm, the Tornados, hunting for their first 3A SSC championship, marched to the Blazers’ 5-yard line looking to grab a lead.
Yelm’s dependable running back, Carson Ammendt, who finished with 147 yards rushing that night, took a handoff and ran right into Campau, who was placed in the defensive lineup for the goal-line stand.
Amendt fumbled, the Blazers recovered, and marched for a touchdown that gave them some breathing room on a 23-yard run by none other than Campau.
Timberline (7-2) won the game, 33-13, and will host seventh-ranked Oak Harbor (7-2) in the district playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at South Sound Stadium.
“The coaches don’t really want me to play defense, but I just love football. I want to be on the field as much as possible,” said Campau, who primarily plays offense. “I want to be the guy out there making plays.”
Mullen credited the victory to the defense, and another stellar game for Campau, who passed for 148 yards and rushed for 105.
“The defense did what they were supposed to do, kept everything in front of them and got off the ball,” Mullen said. “We forced five turnovers and we capitalized.”
Campau has passed and rushed for more than 100 yards in five games this season.
The senior signal caller has hit the century mark in at least one of those categories in Timberline’s past seven games. And, the other two games, nonleague contests against Tumwater and Bonney Lake, he came close.
Of course, it was the Campau-driven offense that did the capitalizing against Yelm.
Entering the postseason, Campau has completed 90 of 139 passes for 1,191 yards, rushed for 1,149 yards on 180 carries, and has scored 30 total touchdowns.
Not bad for his first full season as a varsity quarterback.
In 2017, the Blazers cruised to an opening night victory over Black Hills, 35-7, but Mullen didn’t like the offense’s potential and ultimately switched Campau, a 5-foot-8 running back and defensive back at that point, to quarterback.
“Week 2 against Bonney Lake, it wasn’t that we weren’t moving the ball, but we weren’t throwing it. No one respected our passing game,” Mullen said. “We knew if we got Hunter in there, let him move around a little bit, some things would pop open.”
Timberline didn’t lose that season until Bellevue ousted them, 42-7, in the 3A state quarterfinals.
The week before, though, a last-minute Campau pass to J.J. Graham saved a 26-22 win over Kamiakan in the opening round.
Campau took the move in stride.
“I like being the leader, keeping everybody focused and ready, being someone for everyone to follow,” he said.
He’d been a running quarterback on Timberline’s freshman team, but his passing skills needed sharpening two years later and, at first, his size was a factor.
“I’m a shorter quarterback, so seeing everything on the field was a challenge at first, but it wasn’t hard to pick up when you have your linemen blocking and athletes all around you,” Campau said.
Mullen and Campau got to work, fine-tuning footwork which was already a strength because of carryover from basketball, where Campau plays guard for Timberline. They also focuse on his mental approach in daily drills and conversations.
“Hunter’s not the fastest guy straight ahead you’ll ever see, but on the football field he’s the fastest kid out there,” Mullen said. “He’s got great vision. He can see an opening before it even opens.”
“I’ve gotten better at reading plays, trusting my wide receivers,” Campau said. “Last year I was hesitant making decisions. Once I make a decision I have to go with my instinct and not second guess myself.”
Mullen sees improvement in both Campau’s decision-making and his throwing.
“He’s a good high school passer, but he’s always getting better. He’s always working hard at it,” Mullen said.
“He always wants to go deep and win it right away, which is all right. He’s a competitor. He is doing a lot better job of just taking what the defense gives him.”
In years past, Campau would say he preferred to play basketball over football in college. Now he says football might have an edge.
NCAA Division II schools are recruiting him to play a slot receiver while Division III schools see his potential at quarterback.
“If you’re a 5-8 quarterback, sometimes they don’t think you can do it,” Mullen said. “But I’m putting his video out there to everybody. Even if he is 5-8, sometimes you’ve got to take a chance on someone who’s doing special things.”
One special thing that got away from Timberline was a chance to win the 3A SSC outright, and claim the top seed going into the playoffs.
A celebration penalty after a touchdown in overtime against Peninsula in Week 5 led to an incomplete two-point conversion pass and a 28-27 loss.
“I lost a couple weeks of sleep thinking about that game,” Campau said. “But, I think that’s helped us want it even more.
“We were league champs the last two years, but that (game) showed us that we have to come and play our ‘A’ game every single game, or else something like that can happen.”
Mullen saw positives to the defeat, too.
“You learn a lot from a loss,” he said. “Maybe if we beat Peninsula, then we don’t beat Yelm. Who knows? It was good for our kids to take a loss, good for our coaches to take a loss.”
The Blazers also hope they learned from their season-opening loss to Tumwater, as Oak Harbor will line up in the familiar wing-T formation.
“Oak Harbor is a very disciplined team,” said Campau, who has studied film on this week’s opponent. “They give you a whole bunch of different looks on defense. They’re a very good high school football team.”