If any unit on the Mililani football team represents a lunch pail mentality, it is the offensive line.
While the quarterbacks and receivers played catch and the defense messed around punting the ball back and forth to each other 15 minutes before practice began on Wednesday, each member of the offensive line already had his helmet on and was making good use of it. The big boys up front warmed up for practice running plays and knocking each other around. They still had plenty left when practice began and expect to be ready when the lights come on in the Fist Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA State Championship Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
The bulldozers have made sophomore Vavae Malepeai Oahu’s leading rusher this season and helped the Trojans’ quarterbacks throw for 22 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
Mililani coach Rod York has the utmost confidence in his unit as it prepares for Punahou, even though the Buffanblu boast of a stiff defense that begins with defensive end Canton Bourke Kaumatule. The 6-7, 275-pound junior is the highest-rated recruit from Hawaii in the nation and outweighs all but one of York’s starters up front. So what are the Trojans going to do about the phenom?
“We aren’t playing Canton, we are playing Punahou,” York said. “He is a great player, but he is just one of 11 and that’s how we are going to treat him.”
Punahou moves Kaumatule all along the line, but the Buffanblu figure to start him out on the left side against fellow junior Derick Fetui-Suapaia, who will give up five inches and 25 pounds. The other tackle, junior Jordan Agasiva, is closer in stature to Kaumatule at 6-4, 270 and will get his chances to handle the monster as well.
York said he has confidence in either man no matter who lines up against them. True to his word, Wednesday’s practice featured few double-teams on the edges of the offensive line. The Trojans just lined up and knocked the snot out of the second-team defender who lined up against them. The line held up wonderfully, but Milton struggled a little bit throwing the ball. Malepeai was his usual stellar self, reaching the second level repeatedly before coaches blew the whistle to stop play.
Kaumatule has also been known to slip inside from time to time, where he will meet guards Tayler Fernandez-Dizon (6-0, 260) and Andru Tovi, the Trojans’ big boy at 6-2, 300. One of the most entertaining aspects of the game might come if Kaumatule stunts and finds himself against Mililani senior center Brett Damato. Damato stands just 5-7 and weighs only 230 pounds but has already knocked bigger players than Kaumatule out of the playoffs.
Kaumatule did not play in Punahou’s 24-14 win at Mililani in its season opener, and his absence was definitely felt. Malepeai ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns in that game and protected quarterbacks Milton and Robert Falefine for the most part.
The Trojans played the first meeting without a valuable member of their defense in nose tackle Tamatoa Silva, but he is raring to go for the championship. Playing a man down is a rare thing for the Trojans, who have somehow kept everyone healthy through a grueling OIA West campaign, the OIA playoffs and states. The Trojans had everyone suited up for Wednesday’s practice.
“We have been lucky,” York said. “Even last year, kids get banged up but nothing serious. A lot of it has to do with the training program, but yea, we have been lucky.”