OIA Red Playoffs
The matchup: Leilehua (6-3) vs. Mililani (7-1)
Location/Time: Mililani, Saturday, 6 p.m.
Head-to-head (since 1973): Leilehua leads 20-14-1
Biggest margin of victory: Leilehua, 42-0, Sept. 24, 1988
*Smallest margin of victory: Mililani, 15-14, Nov. 7, 1980; Mililani, 21-20, Sept. 27, 2002
*Teams played to 7-7 tie on Sept. 11, 1999
Leilehua’s offensive leadersUpdated: Oct. 20
Mililani’s offensive leadersUpdated: Nov. 25
Will quarterback Justin Jenks be the difference?
That’s what West No. 5 seed Leilehua has to hope for when it faces Mililani, the top seed out of the West, in the quarterfinals of the OIA Red football playoffs on Saturday night.
Anybody that was at Mililani’s 44-14 win over Leilehua three weeks ago saw a huge difference between the two teams. The Trojans were faster, bigger, stronger and flat out better in every aspect of the game.
Defensive end Kelii Padello had two sacks and was constantly pressuring Leilehua’s quarterback duo of Mack Eberhardt and Kalanimoku Pauole, who both struggled. Eberhardt went 8-for-17 for 97 yards and two interceptions. Pauole threw a touchdown pass in garbage time but was also intercepted and threw the ball 19 times for 107 total yards.
It brought to light Leilehua’s problems at quarterback, where it has had a huge advantage over teams in recent years with Andrew Manley and Bryant Moniz the headliners.
Realizing he had more than just two options at quarterback, coach Nolan Tokuda moved Jenks from receiver back to the position he played as a junior. The move has resulted in two huge wins as Jenks has quarterbacked the Mules to wins over Waipahu and Moanalua by a combined score of 120-31.
Yes, the Mules are averaging 60 points a game in Jenks’ two starts.
That total might be tough to come by against the Trojans, but don’t count out the Mules, especially when they make quarterback changes late in the year. Everyone remembers what Manley did in 2007, moving up from JV to lead Leilehua to five straight wins and a state championship.
That run began with a 27-21 upset of Mililani, which was ranked No. 4 in the state, in the quarterfinals, ending the Trojans’ season.
That’s where the two teams find themselves Saturday, with the loser hanging up the pads for the winter. This is the first playoff meeting since then with the two schools splitting the last six regular-season games.
It’s hard to ignore what Mililani has done this year. The Trojans’ only loss came to No. 1 Punahou by 10 points. Only Saint Louis has given the Buffanblu a tougher game.
The Trojans went undefeated in an unbelievably tough league, outscoring their six conference foes by an average of 26.8 points per game. Waianae’s 20-point loss to the Trojans in late Augusut was Mililani’s smallest margin of victory in league play.
Running back Vavae Malepeai is a contender for first-team all state, rushing for 881 yards (125.9 per game) and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback McKenzie Milton won the quarterback battle with Robert Faleafine and has completed 62 percent (75-for-121) of his passes for 983 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for three more scores.
Bronson Ader (47 catches, 515 yards, 3 TDs) is Mililani’s possession guy in the receiving game with Kainoa Wilson (25-362-2) providing a legitimate deep threat. On defense, Padello anchors an attacking defensive line that has helped hold opponents to 13.9 points per game. Punahou, which dropped at least 48 points on four of its six ILH oponents, tied its fewest points scored in a game against an Oahu team with 24 against the Mules. Padello had four of Mililani’s six sacks in that game.
The Trojans are the OIA’s best shot at winning a state championship, but this has the potential to be a trap game. Mililani beat Leilehua by 30 the first time but these are the types of games Tokuda has pulled out in his tenure as Leilehua’s coach.
The numbers, the stats, the 30-point win, all point toward Mililani rolling on. But these are the Mules. They’ve done this before with a quarterback that barely played in the regular season. Can they do it again?