Scrimmage. This is not an official football game, and yet the bleachers are already half-filled for the preliminary junior varsity matchup between Saint Louis and Mililani.
This is what we know.
1. Saint Louis has not installed its special teams yet. Coach Cal Lee knew he wouldn’t need to have that cemented until their first preseason game, and since this isn’t a scrimmage that includes full punt and kickoff coverage and returns, Saint Louis couldn’t play a complete game even if it had to. That shouldn’t take away from the offensive fireworks we might see tonight at John Kauinana Stadium.
2. Starters will play one quarter. Both teams plan to insert their backups in the second quarter and go deeper into the depth chart by the third. I wish both coaches would put their starters back in for the final quarter, but it is what it is.
3. Why so many scrimmages for Mililani? The Trojans travel to Las Vegas for a nonconference game in the middle of their regular-season schedule, so they don’t have any alternative but to schedule scrimmages. Tonight’s game will have a game-style format. They’re keeping score, in other words.
4. How will Saint Louis’ defense fare against a potent Mililani offense that will probably enjoy the return of all-state RB Vavae Malepeai? The Crusaders have immense talent at some positions defensively, but it has been a rebuilding process in recent years primarily because of a lack of depth. Tonight is quite a test for the Saint Louis ‘D’.
Kickoff is more than an hour away (7 p.m.). The JV game is at the half with Mililani ahead 12-0.
Update: JV final score — Mililani 32, Saint Louis 8.
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The scrimmage began at 7:30 p.m. No kickoffs as expected. McKenzie Milton was 8-for-10 through the air for 63 yards. His 5-yard strike to Kalakaua Timoteo in the end zone capped the drive. I say it was Timoteo but I’m only 99 percent sure. Neither offense is wearing game uniforms, strictly practice gear. MIL 7, STL 0, 7:02, first quarter.
The Crusaders are without WR Drew Kobayashi (leg) and OL Nate Herbig. They drove to the Mililani 28, with QB Tua Tagovailoa — 25 pounds bigger than last year — picking up 20 and 18 yards on scrambles. The drive stalled, however, thanks to two drops on Tagovailoa passes.
Three plays into Mililani’s next series, Milton scrambles and throws an INT. A facemask penalty on the Trojans during the runback takes the ball to the 17. Next play, Saint Louis scores on a blast up the middle. STL 7, MIL 7, 3:17, first quarter.
The Trojans answer with another scoring drive. Vavae Malepeai picks up 54 yards on a jaunt down the left sideline to set up an 8-yard TD pass from Milton to Timoteo. MIL 14, STL 7, 1:19, first quarter.
Should note that both teams are not rushing on PATs.
Saint Louis has driven to the Mililani 4-yard line, but stubbed its toe with a holding call. Tagovailoa then scored on an option keeper, but a hold negated that play, too. The drive ended on a 25-yard pass by Tagovailoa on fourth and goal from the 30. Can’t help thinking the loss of Herbig, who was injured during the Kapolei scrimmage, is huge for the O-line.
Both teams got their starters three series each. Now the 2s are in.
Mililani’s 2-squad got a nice 26-yard pass, but stalled out and punted. Saint Louis’ backup (no number) is a tall one, firing rockets all over. Two completions and two incompletions, including a third-down drop. Punt.
TD pass by Mililani’s backup QB after a series of penalties going back and forth. MIL 20, STL 7, 1:44, first quarter.
Milton finished 11-for-14 with one pick, two TD tosses for 131 yards. Tagovailoa was 4-for-9 for 95 yards through the air. He picked up 46 yards on three scrambles, but was also sacked twice and finished with 31 net rushing yards on five carries.
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Second half about to start. I’m told the starters for both teams will return. And it’s raining now. Umbrellas all over the bleachers on both sides. Nice turnout by Saint Louis, probably around 500-600 fans on that side. Total attendance might be around 1,500 tonight. For a scrimmage. I’d say, “only in Hawaii,” but it’s probably 20 times bigger in Texas.
Half man, half amazing. Tagovailoa’s return is a potential gamebreaker. On third and 20, he eludes the pass rush, hits a receiber in the middle of the field 40 yards away, and the WR breaks a tackle to score on a 77-yard TD. MIL 20, STL 14, 7:19, third quarter. AMAZING.
In typical Trojans fashion, they need just two plays to go 80 yards and respond with a TD of their own. Milton hits two passes, the second a long catch and run to the left pylon. I’m starting to remember last year’s 63-47 game between these teams. MIL 27, STL 14, 6:52, third quarter.
Tagovailoa showcasing his efficiency and brilliance here. He hits four of five passes, including a shovel pass to No. 23 (I’m pretty sure it’s Jahred Silofau) for a TD. MIL 27, STL 21, 5:16, third quarter.
Now it’s Milton waving his magical wand. An explosive, poised TD drive with 5-for-5 passing for 63 yards including a 24-yard TD strike to a slotback. MIL 34, STL 21, 3:03, third quarter.
The Crusaders drive to the Mililani 28 and stall. Two incompletions and a sack of Tagovailoa ends the threat.
Mililani delivers what may be the knockout blow. A simple second-and-1 play-action fake by Milton, quick toss to a SB on a slant. He sheds a tackler and goes 69 yards to paydirt. Great speed. MIL 41, STL 21, 9:47, fourth quarter.
That’s it for both starting units again. The reserves are in, and though it’s interesting to see what both teams have on the depth chart, it was a pleasant surprise to see the starters for six or so series in this scrimmage.
Final stats: Milton 19-for-22, five TDs, one pick, 326 passing yards. Unusual, but I don’t have him with a carry tonight. Tagovailoa was 14-for-24, two TD passes, no picks, 256 yards. He rushed for 61 yards on nine carries and was sacked three times.
That was a big factor in this matchup. Milton had time to throw and got the ball out quickly most snaps. The offense was humming. Receivers in synch with the QB.
Saint Louis had a few drops, a lot of holding calls (they clearly missed Herbig), and without an elite deep threat like Kobayashi, Tagovailoa’s options weren’t quite as layered as Milton’s. Take Timoteo out of the offense and it’s a different look for sure, even though Mililani has some experience at the position.