One year can make a huge difference in high school football.
Take Friday night’s Leilehua at Mililani matchup, for example. It was nothing like last year, when the Trojans won three offensive duels over their central Oahu rivals — in the regular season 52-35, in the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs 63-42, and in the second round of the Division I state tournament 51-35.
This year, Mililani cruised to a 47-0 OIA Red win, led by a flowing offense and a defense that appears to be much improved over a year ago.
In the overall picture, Leilehua was trying to keep up with their older brothers last year. Now, it’s like they are in two different classes.
The Trojans came out moving the ball without a hitch. After scoring on an 80-yard drive following the opening kickoff, Mililani’s Kaine Park recovered an onside kick and that led to three straight scores by Kilifi Malepeai en route to a 40-0 halftime lead.
The brother of Hawaii’s all-time high school rushing leader Vavae Malepeai, Kilifi, who teammates call Kliff, is a 5-foot-11, 230-pound junior.
Kliff rushed for 103 yards and two scores and added two receptions for 38 yards and another touchdown.
He did it behind what looks like a rough, ready, steady and cohesive offensive line.
Defensively, the Trojans got a big performance from Mykah Tuiolemotu, who had five tackles for loss and three of the seven sacks of Mules quarterback Max Nichols.
“Mykah, he’s our leader, a team captain from the get-go,” Mililani coach Rod York said after the game at John Kauinana Stadium. “We feel like he’s special. He was injured and out last year. This year, he has worked hard to do well and get back out there and it showed. He’s still got some things to improve on.”
Jalen Olomua was a two-way standout for the Trojans. He rushed for 41 yards and had 1 1/2 sacks from his linebacker spot.
In addition, Reichel Vegas had a breakout game as a wide receiver for Mililani. He caught five Dillon Gabriel passes for 121 yards, including a 37-yard TD.
Scottie Agasiva, one of the Trojans’ offensive linemen, didn’t hesitate to say he thinks that Kilifi Malepeai is better than his brother Vavae and that this version of the Mililani line is better than the one with his brother, Jordan Agasiva, on it from a few years back.
“I feel like we’re better, we’ve got that mind-set,” Scottie Agasiva said.
York said, “They gotta go out and prove it. They did well tonight, but we have a tough challenge next week against Castle.”
Leilehua’s best play of the night was Masen Reis‘ 54-yard kickoff return. Nichols guided the Mules into Trojans territory several times, but they came up empty.
“Max did what we needed him to do,” Leilehua coach Mark Kurisu said. “He managed the game, limited turnovers, and he moved the ball. We just gotta protect him. We have a bye week and we’ll heal some guys up, address the passing scheme and get our run block. Our O-line is much better than what we’ve been showing. But we’ve played three top squads in a row. We gotta give credit to our opponents tonight and coach Rod. They’re going to do great things and I’m glad we had the opportunity to see where we stand.”
Nichols (13-for-27 for 103 yards) started the season as a backup to Kona Andres, who was the starter last year. Andres may return to the starting job.
“We were trying to give him (Andres) a different perspective from the sideline to see things more clearly and to grow as a leader,” Kurisu said. “He led tonight, that was the nice part. Even though he didn’t start, he was on the sideline cheering on his teammates and staying motivated.”
The Trojans (2-0, 2-0 OIA Red) host Castle (1-1, 1-0) next Saturday before visiting Clayton Valley Charter of Concord, Calif., on Sept. 1.
The Mules (1-2, 0-2) are coming off losses to two Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 teams (No. 2 Kahuku and No. 4 Mililani) after a close win over St. Francis of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. The schedule doesn’t get any easier. Their next game is Sept. 2 at No. 5 Kapolei (2-0, 1-0).