Inspired by the current Kailua squad, here is the third of the five football programs on Oahu since 1973 to follow a winless season with an over .500 record.
1980 Mililani, from 0-8-1 to 6-4
John Kauinana doesn’t have his name on a stadium for nothing. He won plenty of games over his career as Mililani’s head coach, but his best season might have been a .500 campaign.
After winning seasons in 1977 and 1978, Kauinana’s 1979 squad started the season with a loss to Castle and a tie with Nanakuli before dropping its next seven contests and failing to score a touchdown in four of them. The Trojans only scored more than eight points once, putting up 22 in a loss to Moanalua.
The offense still struggled to begin 1980, scoring a total of 19 points in the first five games but breaking the losing streak with a 7-6 win over Nanakuli thanks to David Macam‘s 78 yards on the ground. And then something clicked. The Trojans completely abandoned the pass and Macam and Jonathan Pascua started pounding the rock behind senior guard Ralph Yasunaga and it worked. The resurgence began with a 14-3 win over Moanalua, a 15-7 win over Waialua followed a win over Radford and close wins over Aiea (14-12) and Leilehua (15-14) to close with a five-game winning streak. The defense might be statistically the best Mililani has ever produced, with linebacker Jeff Shimada leading the way.
Other players to contribute were Craig Yamamoto, Anthony and Michael Rash, Robert Wood, Cary Yamamoto, Mark Chang, Mike Himsl and Dino Gipaya, who would become one of Mililani’s all-time best running backs the next season.
The Trojans didn’t sniff the playoffs after their late rally, but Kauinana was rewarded with the Star-Bulletin’s coach of the year award. Mililani’s turnaround team set the stage for the two winning seasons that followed, but perhaps more importantly it showed its best defensive lineman what is possible.
James Millwood graduated from that team and went on to his successful career as the Trojans’ coach a decade later. Millwood never won fewer than four games in a season, so he knew a thing or two about stopping losing streaks.