One by one, the Trojans of Mililani went down.
With powerful running back Kilifi Malepeai already out with an injury, they entered Saturday night’s epic battle with Kamehameha at less than full strength. But shortly into the game, defensive tackle/running back Mykah Tuiolemotu suffered a leg injury. Later, it was receiver/kick returner Reichel Vegas who got hurt. Then receiver/punter Cy Kuboyama-Hayashi limped off the field.
Linebacker Darius Muasau had returned from an ankle injury in time for the game. Mililani built a 24-3 lead, then hung on to dear life for a 31-24 victory over the sixth-ranked Warriors at John Kauinana Stadium.
“In this rain, it was really tough getting off the blocks. We started getting tired. Mykah is a big loss, especially on our D-line. We weren’t getting penetration. We had a lot of players stepping in,” Muasau said.
The visiting Warriors roared back to tie the game at 24, but the Trojans didn’t fade. When Kamehameha went to work for the potential game-tying — or winning — drive, Mother Nature took command with a torrential downpour. Somehow, running back Laakea Ane could see through the pouring rain, making a clutch 14-yard pass to give Kamehameha a first down at the 15.
Then, one snap later, Christmas Togiai shuffled away from the pass rush, launching a spiral in the sky that nobody could see clearly. The ball caromed off the hands and helmet of his tight end, Brook Ai, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone.
“I was kind of scared. I thought he was going to catch the ball,” Muasau said. “It was a relief.”
But the game far from over. Mililani brought heat on the next play and defensive lineman Seth Ebesugawa corralled the elusive Togiai, who tried to lateral the ball. Trojans defensive back McKenna Alcover recovered at the 25-yard line with 22 seconds left, preserving the win.
The downpour continued for several minutes after the game, but within 30 minutes, all was calm again. Not a single drop from the sky.
Mililani is now 3-0 overall, but still 1-0 in OIA Open Division since interleague games don’t count in the OIA standings. They did it with their trademark explosive offense, and came through defensively despite the absence of key players like Tuiolemotu.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel came up with 304 yards and four TDs through the air. He wasn’t satisfied with his overall performance, but even as a player, Gabriel feels the electricity of the OIA-ILH alliance.
“That game was crazy fun,” he said. “Seeing the ILH and OIA going at it is just a great atmosphere.”