The Leilehua Mules revved up their offense and returned to perennial contender status the program has held for so long, winning as many games as it had since Mark Kurisu‘s first go-round as coach in 2011.
The Mules have improved on their win total four years in a row for the first time since Nolan Tokuda‘s squads from 2005-2008. Leilehua was held below three touchdowns only three times, all of them losses, but the offense generated the program’s most points per game since 2014 and improved over last year by nearly nine points per game.
Kurisu’s defense slipped from its previous edition, rising from 16.6 papg to 20.3.
2018 TOP PERFORMANCES
Senior Max Nichols stepped into the void left by Kona Andres and took it to another level, throwing for 2,157 yards and 27 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Nichols put the ball up more than 25 times in eight of his 11 games and threw at least one touchdown in every game until the last one, a playoff loss to Waipahu that was so completely different from his meeting with the same defense a month earlier. Nichols took advantage of Waipahu’s defense for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season but slipped to 62 yards with no TDs and four interceptions in the matchup that mattered most. Nichols put together his best game against winless Nanakuli, breaking the 300-yard mark in a game for the only time in his career and throwing five touchdown passes despite three interceptions.
The running game is always secondary in the Mules’ attack, but occasionally a talent comes along to flip the offense on its ear. Senior James McGary was one of those players, carrying the ball 112 times for 644 yards and six touchdowns. McGary went over 100 yards three times this year and six times in his career. The last leilehua back to reach the century mark three times in one season was John Sanborn in 2002. Only Adrian Murrell (16), Tito Rivera (13), John West (nine) and Calvin Melvin (eight) have had more 100-yard games in the program’s history than McGary. McGary’s biggest game came against ‘Iolani’s usually stout run defense, toting the ball 28 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns — the only time he had more than 17 carries in a game. That performance, the second over 220 in his career, put McGary seventh on the school’s single-game rushing list behind only Murrell and Cameron Watson.
Senior Jeremy Evans was the top target for Nichols, nabbing 42 passes for 734 yards and an incredible 13 touchdowns, only two fewer than all of the rest of the receivers combined. He is the only receiver on Oahu to catch a touchdown in every game of the regular season, but he was not alone. Dorian Furtado provided enough of a threat on the other side with 603 yards and five touchdowns on 35 catches and matched Evans with at least one catch in every game. Rayden Rulloda-Kim, McGary, Jazon Ramos and Kalei Akagi also contributed, but Furtado had the biggest game of the season. He caught five passes against Nanakuli for 132 yards and a touchdown for the biggest yardage game for the school since Kawai Phifer went nuts for 233 yards against Mililani to close out the 2016 season.
Leilehua’s defense has not shut out an opponent since 2015, but Leilehua’s scheme is more about slowing offenses than stopping them. The Mules held Damien to 17 points just before the playoffs, but their best defensive performance came in the 62-12 domination of Nanakuli. The Mules held the Golden Hawks to no yards of offense and only three first downs with Kiaka Pio and Aaron Kenigton scoring on interception returns. The Golden Hawks scored only one touchdown on Leilehua’s defense, and even that came when an interception gave them the ball 6 yards away from paydirt.
>> Mark Kurisu is 24-8-1 in three seasons overall with the Mules.
>> QB Max Nichols finished second in Division I in passing yards.
>> RB James McGary finished third in Division I in rushing yards.
>> WR Jeremy Evans finished third in Division I in receiving yards.
>> WR Dorian Furtado finished fourth in Division I in receiving yards.
KEY UNDERCLASSMEN IN 2018
>> LB Vitale Afoa (5-11, 250), WR Kalei Akagi (5-9, 155), WR Cody Akagi (5-10, 165), WR Rayden Rulloda-Kim (5-9, 160).
FINAL TEAM STATS