Opening night at Mililani began with a somber farewell.
Before taking the field for a nonleague game with Kailua, the Trojans observed a moment of silence in honor of freshman Kekiai Hett, a junior varsity defensive lineman who died suddenly on Friday.
Hett’s No. 99 jersey hung on the back of the Mililani bench alongside a sign bearing his name while his junior varsity teammates posted a 50-18 win. The Trojans JV stayed on the track while the varsity warmed up and held the sign during a ceremony following the alma maters. Flanked by the varsity and JV teams, Hett’s family released brown and gold balloons to conclude the moment of silence.
“Any time you lose a Trojan brother so soon, so sudden, it’s just kind of shocking,” Mililani senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel said after leading the varsity to a 44-6 victory. “We love that guy and anything we can do to help the family out we’re going to do.”
Although he hadn’t played a high school game for the Trojans, Mililani coach Rod York said Hett came up through the Millville team and “we have a lot of kids who have brothers on the Millville team so everybody knows everybody.”
“It’s real tough. It was unexpected. Everybody loved Hett,” York said. “He was an incoming freshman, played on our 7-8 grade Millville team and did well and he was looking to have a good year. The team has rallied around his family and we preach ‘one Trojan, one team, one family.’ Condolences to the Hett family.“
After the emotional ceremony, the varsity Trojans took command early against Kailua. Gabriel completed his first four passes, including a 29-yarder to Mystik Sampaga, and Kilifi Malepeai ran through then spun away from Kailua defenders on his way to a 26-yard touchdown run.
After its lone punt of the first half, Mililani scored on four of its next five possessions with Gabriel throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Chang followed by an 18-yarder to Reichel Vegas over the middle.
Malepeai ran for 67 yards on just seven carries, but his final attempt left the Trojans with a sizable question mark heading into an Open Division matchup with Farrington on Saturday. Malepeai had to helped off the field after a punishing 20-yard run in the second quarter and did not return. York said Malepeai had a sprained ankle.
Raysen Motoyama and Dreyston Barquis scored on short touchdown runs and if Malepeai is sidelined “the next guy has to get in and get going,” York said.
Gabriel was the only quarterback on the active roster and went the distance for Mililani. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns, the last going to speedy freshman slot Kai Banks, who took a short swing pass 42 yards for his first high school TD.
“Dillon knows the offense,” York said. “Gotta go to the open guys, take what they give us and we’ll be all right.”
The Mililani defense smothered Kailua throughout the first half, holding the Surfriders to 19 total yards before the break. Mililani had four sacks in the half and forced a fumble on the final play of the second quarter.
Kailua opens its Division I schedule against Leilehua and Saturday’s game gave coach Joseph Wong and his staff some aspects to build upon. Cole Weber came off the bench in the second half and connected with Kamryn Kahoonei on a 79-yard touchdown to break up the shutout in the fourth quarter.
“We just have to go back, look at the film and see what we got a change or what we have to stay with,” Wong said.
“I like what we bring to the table and Mililani is a really good team. … They have a veteran quarterback and veteran receivers out there, they know how to play and they’ve been playing together for awhile. You can never do that to anybody let alone Mililani. … All those little things we didn’t do at certain points led to big plays.”