Two weeks of dedicated preparation turned Friday night’s state-tourney semifinal between offensive juggernauts Mililani and Campbell into a defensive duel.
Our able scribes expected scores in the 30s and 40s. Instead, No.5 Campbell’s defense battled tooth and nail, and No. 2 Mililani actually shut out the Sabers’ potent passing attack in a 24-2 victory.
When the teams met during the regular season, Mililani ran away, 52-14. This time, it was a 7-2 game for most of the first half, an actual defensive battle that came down to details.
Though the Trojans didn’t blitz heavily, the base front led by Mykah Tuiolemotu harassed Campbell’s quarterbacks consistently. The defensive unit, all 11, were in perfect position, or close to it, on every snap. The result was jaw-dropping: a mere 163 yards of total offense for the Sabers, including just 73 through the air.
The pressure up front led to five interceptions by Mililani: three by first-time varsity player Vaisen Viloria and one by Asher Pilanca, who also collected a team-high eight tackles, and LB Darius Muasau, a University of Hawaii commit. Linebacker Javon Olomua also had eight takedowns and Musau and DL Ezra Save had five tackles apiece, including 1 1/2 for loss by Save.
Tuiolemotu had three tackles, one for loss, and two of his team’s six hurries on Campbell’s Krenston Kaipo and Blaine Hipa.
“We talked about it during practice, always staying together and playing as a team. That’s the main thing. We never play for ourselves,” Tuiolemotu said. “The video showed all the pieces we needed to look at as a whole. We all stuck together and did our job.”
Mililani defensive coordinator Vince Nihipali had nothing but praise for his unit after the defensive shutout. No opponent had shut out Campbell’s offense all season.
“Vaisen Viloria, he’s just a natural athlete. We pulled him up from JV. He’s got that something to him. He’s a natural,” Nihipali said. “He’s playing corner today, and he played safety on JV.”
Nihipali made the most of the two weeks allotted to prepare before the Open Division semifinals.
“The boys practiced hard. We prepped for the deep ball and the screen, so they were well prepared. I thought we did a great job with stopping what they do well. They ran the ball a little bit on us. That was a little bit of a concern, but we fixed that at halftime,” Nihipali said. “They’ve got athletes, and I used to coach at Campbell. Those are good kids. We had to make sure our alignments were there. They were taking advantage of the cutback. We were shading the wrong guy at one point, so once we shaded the right guy, we were good.”
The process, the attention to detail, goes back to work on and off the field. Film study prep requires teamwork, from Nihipali to head coach Rod York.
“Basically, I prepped everything. I had their last five games, broke it down to down and distance, what they do, their favorite plays. Coach Rod does the film study with them, he’s got the cheat sheet and it worked out. I break down the film and make all the labeling and stuff. Rod does a great job with the kids in the film room,” Nihipali said.
“I was coaching at Western Oregon after I was done playing, and that’s kind of what I did, I cut film. That was before the whole Hudl thing. I was old school. VHS and stuff. I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s like a toy for me.”