12TH IN A SERIES
Last year, Mililani let it get away.
With 1:34 left in the OIA championship game, the Trojans lost their chance at the trophy when Kahuku scored the go-ahead TD for a 35-31 victory.
After that, Mililani moved on to the state tournament and lost to Saint Louis, the same team that came back late to wind up with a 31-28 title-game win over Kahuku in the Open Division state championship.
So, the Trojans are right there at the top of the state’s hierarchy. He might not say it or show it, but those who know coach Rod York know that the loss to Kahuku was a stinging way to end the league campaign.
But this is a new year and there is a bright outlook.
“Our offense has over half the guys returning,” York said. “They all have game experience. We are looking to be productive and execute with the experience we have returning.”
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel, a senior who has the state’s passing yardage record in his sights, is among York’s offensive impact players.
Some others include wide receivers Ryan Chang and Cy Kuboyama-Hayashi, and slotbacks Reichel Vegas and Mystic Sampaga.
Running back Kilifi Malepeai picked up some tough yardage in a recent scrimmage against Kapolei.
According to York, others to look for on offense are slotback Raysen Motoyama and a line made up of Jake Tuatagaloa, Sergio Muasau, Ikaika Lafaele, Mayson Miyashiro and Makana Sing.
The coach expects linebacker Darius Muasau and lineman Micah Tuiolemotu to carry the defensive leadership. Others who are expected to contribute in a big way on that side of the ball are defensive backs Asher Pilanca and Charm Lomibao, linebacker Spencer Santos, linemen Ezra Save, Shane Kady, Cyrus DeRego and Storm Sua.
“We have newcomers who will help, too,” York said. “Brothers Fatu Iosefa (cornerback) and Eric Iosefa (linebacker) will be productive. Ronovan Mokia is a Vegas transfer who is very physical and brings a force to our team. Kiai Ramos, Shase Quisano, and Benaiah Pritchard were part of our JV championship team and they will help.”
As with all coaches on Oahu, York knows there won’t be any pushovers in the new OIA-ILH alliance.
“Last year was a great year for us,” he said. “We had a great season, finishing 10-2. However we were 0-2 in our last two games, but we lost to two great teams who could beat anyone in the country at the end of the season. We will use last year for experience and welcome the new (Open Division) schedule to improve our team and program. The boys have been working hard and we are ready to go. We will learn to play for the guy next to them and play together as one unit. We have a lot of work to do, but we have great leaders and great kids so we are excited about the season.”
The Trojans open with a nonleague game Saturday night at home against Division I Kailua. Mililani’s first OIA-ILH Open Division alliance game is Aug. 11 at home against Farrington.
Next in series: Moanalua Na Menehune.
• Aiea Na Alii
• Campbell Sabers
• Castle Knights
• Farrington Governors
• Kahuku Red Raiders
• Kaimuki Bulldogs
• Kaiser Cougars
• Leilehua Mules
• McKinley Tigers
• Nanakuli Golden Hawks
• Pearl City Chargers