A modern Trojan army: No defense stops it

Vavae Malepeai and the MIlilani offense is humming. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino
Vavae Malepeai and the MIlilani offense is humming. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino

Six weeks into the regular-season slate, this much is clear: the Mililani Trojans punish those who are imperfect. Against another strong defensive unit, Mililani rolled up 580 total yards: 302 rushing yards on 38 carries, and 278 by air.

Farrington is the latest example of how the state’s No. 2- ranked team can frustrate and pacify so many opponents. Saturday’s 41-14 win by the men of Troy — lifting Mililani to 6-0 in OIA Blue play (7-0 overall) and sinking Farrington a notch (to 5-1) involved a number of pivotal points.

>> Boom or bust. Farrington QB Montana Liana was 8-for-12, 188 yards and a TD in the first half. Coach Randall Okimoto felt the game would’ve been close at halftime if not for a couple of fumbles — one on a bad snap at the Mililani 20-yard line, another by Liana at the Trojans’ 15. That made a big difference in what wound up being a 34-14 halftime score.

Liana’s late hit after throwing a pick on the final play of the first half was costly for both teams. Defensive back Ramsey Tacadena suffered a possible dislocated elbow, according to Mililani coach Rod York. Liana was assessed a personal foul, then was ejected after officials conferred.

Liana maintained that he thought Tacadena was still on his feet, using his arm to keep his balance. But whether it was out of frustration — being sacked the play before — or lack of vision on a downfield tackle, it was a bizarre, unexpected turn of events.

It was that kind of night for the Govs, who were right there with the Trojans — at least for one half — if not for the turnovers and an ill-fated decision. Liana was headed for a 300-yard passing night — which would’ve been a milestone for the senior — against one of the top defenses in the state. Instead, Farrington mustered just 43 total yards of offense in the second half, and their starting QB — and co-captain — is suspended for next week’s game against Campbell.

Mililani quarterback McKenzie Milton is a threat to score on every play. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino
Mililani quarterback McKenzie Milton is a threat to score on every play. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino

>> M&M Factory. Vavae Malepeai bided his time through the first half of the season. As defenses clamped down in the box against the All-State running back — who rushed for 1,375 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore — Malepeai broke 15 carries in just one of his team’s first four games.

Last week, Campbell opted to close off QB McKenzie Milton, and Malepeai responded with 29 carries for 145 yards and two TDs. On Saturday, he gashed Farrington’s normally formidable front seven for 199 yards and four TDs on 22 carries.

He picked up 90 rushing yards in the third quarter, a relentless, punishing force of nature. Then he sat the fourth as the Trojans opened a 27-point lead. Otherwise, he could have hit the 300-yard mark, doing what he does best: shedding tacklers beyond the line of scrimmage.

“He gets stronger as the game goes on. He does not get tired, and he recovers real fast,” coach Rod York said.

Malepeai, a 6-foot, 200-pound junior, also averaged 26.5 yards on two punt returns.

Milton was relatively quiet for most of the first half, similar to the Campbell game. But he did break off runs of 19 and 16 yards early before going zig-zag on a second-quarter, 40-yard TD run, shaking off tacklers near the left sideline, then bolting for the right pylon, where he juked a final would-be tackler.

The junior quarterback was nearly flawless through the air, 22-for-26, 278 yards, one TD, no picks, and put up another typical Milton rushing line: nine carries, 111 yards, one TD.

It’s not like Farrington’s defense had no idea where he was most of the night. They converged, but he simply was too slippery and, on the TD run, quite witty. Whether by design or not, Milton faked to Malepeai on a read option, and instead of hitting the other side, he followed his running back, much like a mid-line option keeper.

>> Stepping up. Bryson Ventura had a career high seven receptions for 120 yards as the Trojans continued to master the air waves without Kainoa Wilson. It’s not a matter of eyeballing the same go-to receiver all night for Milton. The system is free-flowing and logical, and Ventura got open and made the most of his opportunities, catching every ball thrown his way.

That was a big relief for Mililani, which had Kalakaua Timoteo in uniform despite a shoulder injury. Timoteo wasted little time making his presence felt, hauling in a 40-yard TD strike from Milton. It was classic Timoteo, who lined up as the single wideout to the right (near) side in a trips-left formation. Deep post route, good pass protection and Milton’s laser was on point against single coverage.

The shoulder seemed OK. The legs, well, they’re fine, too.

>> Spreading the wealth. Milton targeted five different receivers on his first five pass attempts. Then the reads left Bronson Ramos and Ventura as focal points. In one stretch midway through the first half, Ramos was targeted on four of Milton’s five passes, making three receptions for 39 yards.

Then, Ventura was targeted on three of the next four Milton hoists, making three grabs for 25 yards.

Milton’s targets
Joshua Butac: 3 receptions, 21 yards (three targets)
Makana Tauai: 2-14 (three targets)
• Timoteo: 3-60, TD (three targets)
• Ventura: 7-120 (seven targets)
• Ramos: 4-43 (six targets)
Cheyne Constantino: 2-18 (two targets)
Chad Senas: 1-2 (one target)

Constantino also got some work in the backfield, rushing for 20 yards on five carries late in the game. He looked quick and explosive, as did Tauai. A lot of that has to do with an offensive line that Milton calls “the best in the state.” But still, the Trojans had to be stoked about the play of their reserves.

>> Thirteen penalties, 154 yards. The Trojans weren’t without mistakes, to be sure. Farrington had 12 yellow flags for 114 yards.

>> Boom town. Marc Matas doesn’t kick extra points any more, but his role on kickoffs is invaluable. On six kickoffs, he had five touchbacks. The exception was an onside kick after a Farrington 15-yard penalty. Not only did Mililani avoid the possibility of Ranan Mamiya returning a kick to the end zone, there was virtually no risk of injury on kick coverage, and the net yardage gained through touchbacks is a huge plus in the field-position game.

Granted, an offense like Mililani’s doesn’t value field position like other teams do. The Trojans go for it on fourth down more than any team I’ve seen this fall. By far. Luani Matagiese is a fine punter, but the math favors Mililani’s penchant for going for it on fourth down. They were 1-for-3 on fourth downs on Saturday — not great — while averaging 6.7 yards on those three plays. But the ultimate math is this: 51.2 points per game. That makes any fourth-down risk near midfield or in the red zone very manageable, at least until the Trojans face an equally effective opponent.

>> Defenders of Troy. Mililani had two sacks: one by Kahewai Ka‘aiawa‘awa and a split by Elias Pritchard and Rex Manu. Sergio Urena and Pekelo Lee recovered fumbles.

Mililani coach Rod York didn't let his players relax with a large lead against Farrington. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino
Mililani coach Rod York didn’t let his players relax with a large lead against Farrington. Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino


  1. late hit` September 28, 2014 9:54 pm

    Really? Liana Montana thought that the mililani player was holding himself up and wasn’t down? Give me a break. He was laying on his back cradling the ball into his body and was power bombed way after the whistle was blown.

    That qb should be suspended longer for refusing to take responsiblity for his actions.

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