Can Mililani keep this offensive pace all year?

by Paul Honda on August 17, 2014

Mililani's Vavae Malepeai (Krystle Marcellus / kmarcellus@staradvertiser.com)

Mililani’s Vavae Malepeai rushed for 112 yards against Saint Louis.
(Krystle Marcellus / kmarcellus@staradvertiser.com)

You’d have to play Madden or NCAA 14, load up your lineup with All-Pros (or All-Americans) and go no-huddle (sometimes hurry up) all game long to rack up crazy numbers like this.

Yes, the scoreboard at John Kauinana Stadium binged and banged like a pinball machine on Saturday night. For both Mililani and Saint Louis. Keeping stats would’ve been much simpler if the UH statistics crew (with all their fancy machinery) would’ve been there.

Instead, it was left to this old writer’s pen and paper to make sense out of two run-and-shoot juggernaut offenses completely off leash.

First, Mililani had 699 total yards. That’s 330 rushing yards on 37 carries and 369 passing yards, the latter by McKenzie Milton. The Trojans averaged 10.3 yards per play.

Second, it was Vavae Malepeai. Saint Louis lined up in a 3-2 defense, says Milton, so it was a healthy diet of Vae left, Vae right and Vae up the middle. The junior running back, who wears 19 and occasionally looks like a very young Mustang from back in the day (Eric Dickerson), was a machine.

His early results: 12 yards, 1, 7, 20, 5, 8 and a 2-yard touchdown. That’s 55 yards in just two possessions at nearly 8 yards per carry. Then the visitors decided to clamp down on Malepeai and it became the Milton show.

The junior hit his first six pass attempts for 119 yards, but that’s not it. He has total trust in his receivers, particularly in solo coverage. And when the Crusaders decided to bring a little heat, Milton didn’t hesitate to get outside the pocket and split through defenders for touchdown runs of 53 and 47 yards, plus the 1-yard sneak late in the game to cushion the Trojans’ lead.

By the end of the night, he had 573 yards of total offense. Seven touchdowns in all. Milton completed 68 percent of his throws, averaged 11.9 yards per attempt. And the 204 rushing yards on nine attempts? How would any defensive coordinator game plan for a massively talented receiving corps, a versatile, powerful offensive line… and a quarterback who goes off the blueprint and goes full speed upfield instead of going through by-the-book progressions?

Milton says he runs a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, which sounds completely bizarre. Maybe something was wrong with the timing device. Or maybe he’s just a game-speed kind of player.

It was the most prolific statistical performance by a prep quarterback I can remember. Ever. Milton may not see another defense as young and inexperienced. Saint Louis, though green defensively, has talent there and will certainly improve under the watchful, sage eyes of Cal Lee.

But game planning for this Mililani offense is going to be brutal for opposing coaches. Fun for fans to watch, though.

Malepeai finished with 112 rushing yards on 25 carries, limited by a committed Crusaders defense in the second half. But his impact is huge for the Trojan offense. Their receivers were in highlight mode all evening.

Kalakaua Timoteo showed glimpses of excellence a year ago. Now, as a starter, No. 81 was a magnet for Milton’s spirals. Timoteo was targeted 11 times and came up with nine catches for 167 yards, including a 33-yard bomb by fellow receiver Kainoa Wilson.

Wilson was superb last year and continued to be so on Saturday. He was targeted 10 times and had eight grabs for 161 yards and touchdown catches of 6 and 15 yards.

Bronson Ramos was targeted seven times and finished with four receptions for 59 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.

The only other targeted Trojans were Jaren Zadlo, Joshua Butac and Malepeai. Of those three, Malepeai had one reception, a smooth swing pass for 15 yards.

Defensively, Rex Manu recovered a fumble and the Trojan defense was very active. Sure, they surrendered 47 points and nearly 500 total yards, but with so many quick scores — hurry-up tempo by either team — it was a matter of damage control and survival rather than trying to be dominant. Yes, Saint Louis’ offense is that good.

Ramsey Tacadena and Ty Purcell-Apana came up with picks for the Trojans. Sergio Urena, Quin Chanel, Palaie Gaoteote and Pekelo Lee each had a sack.

Saint Louis is in transition to a “new” system offensively, but the numbers — 477 total yards aren’t bad at all for a first game. Veteran Ryder Kuhns overcame a bumpy first quarter and was on fire in the third, completing six of eight attempts for 106 yards and a touchdown in one stretch. His last two throws, both picks, were more to do with missed reads (either by himself or his receivers) than anything else.

He finished 12-for-22 for 160 yards and the two TD tosses. He was sacked twice, but eluded the pass rush sometimes and finished with -4 yards rushing on four carries.

Tua Tagovailoa, the sophomore backup, was sharp from the get-go. He played the second and fourth quarters and finished 19-for-28 for 188 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. He also endured Mililani’s pass rush and took off running for 73 yards on 14 carries, including two sacks.

While Kuhns has the mobility to keep a play alive and go through progressions, Tagovailoa is more willing to cut it short and explore open space. He had runs of 12, 19, 17 and 22 yards, darting to the right for yardage most times.

For both quarterbacks — clearly all-state material and a nice “problem” for Crusader coaches to have — the improvement as an offensive unit has to be a positive. Lee already knows the offense is where he has the most experience and depth, and it’s the offense that will have to carry the load.

Their receiving corps was fun to watch despite the offense’s slow start. Allen Cui was a workhorse out of the slot, finishing with 10 receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Cui was targeted 13 times — nine times by Kuhns. That’s a bit misleading though; Cui suffered a leg cramp during the second half and sat for several minutes, leaving Tagovailoa without a clutch pass catcher between the hash marks.

Drew Kobayashi had a 35-yard grab, but his exploits deep downfield were limited by the Trojans. Kobayashi finished with four receptions for 67 yards on seven targets.

A few weeks ago, Lee liked the potential of this group and mentioned Cash Searle, who wound up with two catches for 38 yards. But it was Keanu Souza who emerged on Saturday as another big-time playmaker. Souza had seven receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including one on an out route that included a hesitation move and then a juke to get past two Trojans.

Souza was targeted 13 times: six by Kuhns and seven by Tagovailoa. In fact, three of Kuhns’ first five tosses went Souza’s way, but they didn’t connect.

Saitua Lefau and Colton Nascimento caught scoring passes late in the game and in all, 10 Crusaders caught at least one pass.

There’s also this: Mililani’s staff, starting with head coach Rod York, is well-versed in all things to do with the Ron Lee four-wide offense. The Lee brothers were, in a way, tutors to York years ago. Then came a string of former Crusader QBs-turned-coaches to guide the Mililani offense. That’s why, when the Crusaders tried to get their screen and shovel passes going in the first quarter, the Trojan defense was right up on them. That’s my guess, anyway.

And even with that, the men of Troy couldn’t stop Saint Louis often.

Now the question is, will anybody stop Mililani’s offense?

Ever?

(Note: Corrects Kuhns’ TD pass total to two and Tagovailoa’s TD pass total to five.)

Saint Louis takes a knee during an injury timeout at Mililani.

Saint Louis takes a knee during an injury timeout at Mililani.

Mililani coach Rod York.

Mililani coach Rod York.

Mililani defensive tackle Rex Manu.

Mililani defensive tackle Rex Manu.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

bleedred August 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Mililani had the best passing game in 2011 and just tore through the regular season until they ran into a defensive minded Kahuku squad in the playoffs and lost. This year is no different except York went out and got a running back (Malepeai from Halawa) to compliment the passing game, its going to be harder now for opponents to stop the trojans and I dont see anyone in the OIA doing that this year except for maybe Kahuku or Farrington.

Leave a Comment

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.

*

Previous post:

Next post: