The look on head coach Rod York‘s face had much more meaning than the words he was saying.
It was after the Trojans’ 62-18 victory over Hilo on Friday night at Aloha Stadium, and he was speaking about the return of senior quarterback McKenzie Milton.
“He made some bad throws,” York said, before adding, “and he made some good throws.”
And right at the end of that sentence came the look, the deep look, the one that (if looks could talk) said, “Did you see those throws!? He’s back. This is a happy day. Woohoo.”
But, of course, York would never get giddy like that. He may not have even been thinking it. He is much more straight-forward and calculating. Let’s just say the look he gave was a signal that he knows his offense is back to humming mode. And humming mode could also be termed “needed mode,” meaning the Trojans in all likelihood need Milton to be on the field guiding the offense if Mililani is going to defend its state championship.
The competition will be much, much tougher than Hilo. Up next is Saint Louis and, since the Crusaders have the same type of passing offense as the Trojans, it is expected to be a shootout.
On paper (or on the computer-screen spreadsheet in these technologically improved and ‘green’ times), Mililani may get a slight edge on offense and Saint Louis may rate considerably stronger on defense.
But despite the many doubters, the Trojans have shown they can scrap on defense and that they don’t give up.
Milton came off the bench to throw three touchdown passes in his return from a serious shoulder injury. It took him six weeks to recover.
“I’m grateful and blessed to be back and to have such a speedy recovery,” Milton said.
Added York, “McKenzie came in and sparked the guys with some good throws and then they got even more inspired and we started making plays.”
Yes, another telling remark came in Hawaii Prep World’s postgame interview with York: “Let’s just say we missed him.”
Cy Kuboyama-Hayashi, a freshman QB brought up from the JV squad to start in his first varsity game, also fared well. He went 7-for-8 for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Kuboyama-Hayashi said after the game.
Fellow freshman Dillon Gabriel most likely had a similar feeling one week ago in the OIA championship game against Kahuku. It was his first start, having been brought up from the JV squad as well, and he suffered a broken collarbone.
Kuboyama-Hayashi talked about his two TD throws, one a screen that Makana Tauai took 43 yards into the end zone and the other a slant into the end zone to Bryson Ventura.
“On the screen, I was thinking about trying to draw the defense in as much as possible,” he said. And Kuboyama-Hayashi paid for it by taking a bruising hit from a Hilo defender.
“(The one to Ventura), I just knew I had to drill it in there,” he added.
Mililani showed off some other quarterback options late in the game, when Nicholas Culp and Fabian Johnson-Slay scored touchdowns out of the wildcat formation.
“It’s something we work on, but don’t use much,” York said.
Culp was loving it.
“It was fun,” he said. “I had a lot of adrenaline pumping. I knew I had to impress my coaches. They didn’t know what I could do. I knew what I could do because God gave me this ability.”
The Trojans (10-2) play the Crusaders (8-1) at Aloha Stadium at 7:30 next Friday. The winner moves on to play either Kahuku (11-0) or Waianae (9-3) in the state final the following Friday.
“We’ll have to play a perfect game,” York said.