The experience of two varsity seasons contributes to Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s comfort and calm in the pocket.
Having five returning starters protecting him up front certainly doesn’t hurt.
Gabriel made his varsity debut as a freshman, earned the starting position last year and passed for 2,656 yards and 28 touchdowns behind the protection of an offensive line comprised of three juniors and two freshmen.
The unit returns intact and represents the foundation for the Mililani offense as the fourth-ranked Trojans look to build on the momentum and experience of a run to the Division I state title last November. Seniors Scottie Agasiva and Noah Williams received All-State second-team honors last year and return along with fellow senior Rio Claytor and sophomores Sergio Muasau and Jacob Tuatagaloa.
It’s a big reason the Trojans are picked No. 4 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser preseason rankings.
“It’s ridiculous, I sit back there forever,” Gabriel said of the sense of ease the line provides. “They’ve been working hard. I push them, they push me and they’re just great guys. They’ve got the size and us just building that continuity is helping us even more.”
When they aren’t dropping back to protect Gabriel, the Trojan linemen will be called upon to clear a path for a group of physical running backs led by senior Jalen Olomua and Darius Muasau, who double as leaders of the linebacker corps.
Olomua ran for 649 yards and 12 touchdowns last season followed by Muasau’s 520 yards. A deep backfield also includes Ili Kila (487 yards, six TDs) and Kilifi Malepeai (60 yards, 1 TD).
“We have big athletic dudes so we’re going to use them,” Mililani coach Rod York said. “It all depends what the defense gives us.”
Despite the loss of All-State receiver Andrew Valladares, York has been encouraged by the playmaking potential in the passing game with the return of Gabriel and a young yet seasoned group of receivers.
“Dillon has been very motivated and he’s got a lot to prove and we’ve got a lot to prove,” said York, who enters his eighth season as head coach at 66-19.
“He’s doing everything we’ve asked of him and he just has to be patient and stick within the scheme and make sure he goes with his reads and progressions and he’s going to have a great year.”
But, he’s quick to reiterate, “it starts up front.”
While the much of the OIA and ILH open the season with nonconference games Friday and Saturday, Mililani’s first scheduled game is slated for Aug. 11 at Kaiser, although the Cougars’ “modified” schedule remains somewhat murky due to a low turnout. The Trojans have a mid-season trip to California scheduled and face Clayton Valley Charter on Sept. 1.