One game into his Mililani career, Malosi Sam already owns a place among the program’s elite.
The junior running back was admittedly feeling “a little bus’ up,” while walking toward the team bus after the fourth-ranked Trojans opened the season with a 30-26 comeback win over No. 3 Campbell on Friday night in Ewa Beach.
It’ll be understandable if he wants to sleep in a bit on Saturday after carrying the ball a staggering 43 times against the Sabers. The Saint Louis transfer finished the Trojans’ season opener with 259 yards and three touchdowns in Mililani’s 10th-straight win over Campbell.
His yardage total goes into the books as the third highest in the program’s history, trailing only Vavae Malepeai’s 282 rushing yards against Moanalua in 2015 and Brian Daniels’ 279 against Kailua in 2000.
Sam made his debut at Mililani after transferring from state champion Saint Louis, along with linebacker Wynden Hoohuli, who helped spark the Trojans’ defense with two interceptions in the second half. Sam led Saint Louis with 538 yards on 79 carries last season and scored two of his eight touchdowns in the Crusaders’ 38-17 victory over Mililani in the Open Division state championship game.
“Start out fresh,” Sam said of joining a new program. “I had to put in the work in the summer.”
He carried the ball on seven of the Trojans’ first eight plays, but was stopped short of the goal line on fourth-and-1 to end Mililani’s first possession. After Campbell took a 12–0 lead on touchdown receptions of 21 and 90 yards by Sabers two-way playmaker Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, Sam covered 30 yards on his next three carries and broke through with a 14-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
He gave Mililani its first lead with a 2-yard run to cap a drive highlighted by a 54-yard completion from junior quarterback Brendyn Agbayani to Kanoa Gibson on the third play after halftime. Agbayani, stepping in for former All-State slinger Dillon Gabriel, completed 19 of 28 passes for 180 yards with two interceptions in his first start. Gibson accounted for 140 yards on 10 receptions.
After Campbell took a 26-20 lead on Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala’s 61-yard interception return on the final play of the third quarter, Sam capped an eight-play drive with a 31-yard burst up the middle on fourth-and-1. The PAT gave Mililani the lead for good at 27-26.
The Trojans then recovered a fumble, stretched the lead on Kaulana Navares’ third field goal of the game and got the ball right back on Hoohuli’s second interception of the game.
Sam then sealed the win with four more carries, the last gaining 18 yards on third-and-7 to allow Mililani to run out the clock.
“Crazy,” said Mililani assistant coach Maa Tanuvasa, who served as “substitute” head coach on Friday. “It only happens up front, our offensive line. We’ve got some great guys up front. They opened holes for Malosi and he seemed to find them. Even when it was’t there, he just pushed the pile.”
Mililani head coach Rod York’s absence from the sideline for what Tanuvasa called “personal reasons” was just one of the crazy elements of a season-opener that featured fireworks throughout the night — on the scoreboard and just outside the Sabers’ field.
“I just showed up today for the JV game and I guess it was personal reasons,” Tanuvasa said of York’s absence. “I got the text and it said ‘hey, you’re the head coach.’
“Maybe because I’ve been here the longest he put it on me. Just take it as it goes. Didn’t do much to change anything, let the coaches coach and I just called timeouts.”
Sam’s proficiency in grinding out first downs and the defense’s three takeaways in the second half led to Mililani running 45 plays on offense while Campbell’s offense was on the field for just 11 after halftime.
“Coach Rod wasn’t here today, this game was for him,” Hoohuli said. “We just came here to ball out.”
The Sabers scored on two big plays in the second half — a 55-yard run by St. Francis transfer Jonan Aina-Chaves and Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala’s interception return — but two turnovers resulted in Campbell running just five plays in the fourth quarter.
“We expect to play them again,” Campbell coach Darren Johnson said after Mililani took the early edge in the OIA Open Division race. “We just have to get better. We have to do the little things right and our kids know that we’re going to work, we’re going to get better and every week we have to prepare for somebody good.
“It’s time to move forward, move on. The coaches will go back and evaluate and we’ll practice on Monday.”
Campbell was without an All-State performer in Poki’i Adkins-Kupukaa, who spent the game on the sideline on crutches with his foot and lower leg in a protective boot. Johnson said the Sabers are aiming to have him back for their game at Kahuku on Aug. 31.
In the meantime, the next step for Campbell comes Thursday at Farrington while Mililani hosts No. 5 Kahuku on Friday.