After wrapping up their Thursday practice session, Kahuku’s football players went home for dinner, homework and sleep.
About 28 miles to the southwest, Kahuku’s opponent for a 7 p.m. Friday scrimmage — the Mililani Trojans — were on their home field easing to an unofficial 48-14 scrimmage win over Leilehua.
Now, it’s Kahuku’s turn to go to Mililani’s John Kauinana Stadium and see what they have in the tank against the Trojans, who went undefeated last season on the way to the Division I state title.
The Red Raiders players say their 13-10 loss to Punahou in the state semifinals still stings, and so does their 20-7 loss to Mililani in the OIA championship game. Friday’s scrimmage is a test they are relishing.
“Losing to Mililani last year was not a pleasant day for Kahuku football,” center Jed Heffernan said after Thursday’s practice on the Red Raiders’ upper field. “We are amped up for this first scrimmage of the year. We are playing to win.”
A good showing against the Trojans would certainly mean something. In many fans’ eyes, Mililani’s offense is “unstoppable.”
Like Thursday’s Leilehua at Mililani scrimmage, Friday’s Kahuku at Mililani contest will run with eight-minute quarters and no kickoffs. The score is expected to be kept on the scoreboard, unlike most scrimmages statewide.
Mililani coach Rod York isn’t taking Kahuku lightly. He remembers teams having success in at least slowing down his offense late last season (20 points against Kahuku, and 17 against Farrington in a 3-point win in the state semifinals).
Except for those two games, the Trojans put on a high-powered offensive show all season, making things appear easy. York, not surprised at those two hard-to-earn wins, said at the time, “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
It will be interesting to see what first-year Kahuku head coach Vavae Tata has planned on defense. He was a defensive end in high school at Saint Louis and in college at UCLA and was a defensive coach for several Division I colleges. He takes that part of the game seriously, and this first test is about as tough an assignment as he’s going to get.
Tata’s defensive unit, however, won’t be facing two-time All-State first-team running back Vavae Malepeai, who happens to be Tata’s nephew. Malepeai has turf toe, according to Trojans athletic director Glenn Nitta. He didn’t play against Leilehua and also won’t play on Saturday against Kamehameha, but his injury won’t keep him out long, Nitta said.
At Kahuku’s Thursday practice, defensive end Bradlee Anae said, “We are crazy for (stopping) Mililani, stopping Vavae (Anae did not know Malepeai would not be playing), and stopping the quarterback (All-State first-team selection McKenzie Milton). We don’t care how many thousand yards he’s thrown for. They’re (the Trojans) the giants and we want this one.”