Rod York is a realist.
He is also an optimist. The Mililani football coach is on a quest to play the best teams he can find. So, the nation’s No. 2 team, St. John Bosco, agreed to a home-and-home series with the Trojans.
The Braves won last year’s matchup, 52-14, in a game that Coach Jason Negro considered close until the late going. The 2019 Trojans don’t have Dillon Gabriel, who was the Star-Advertiser offensive player of the year, but as a team, they might be better. That’s true of the defensive unit, which is stocked with returning talent and multiple transfers, including former Saint Louis linebacker Wynden Ho‘ohuli.
Even then, however, York believes his team has to play its best game of the season to compete with the powerhouse Braves.
“The ultimate difference will be the speed. Basically every player on that first-string offense and defense is getting a Division I scholarship, multiple offers, because of their speed,” York said. “Their D-line is running sub-4.9. Quick. Explosive. Bosco’s D-line will be the best D-line that we’re going to face.”
Mililani and St. John Bosco meet on Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at John Kauinana Stadium.
York chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Tuesday. The teams face off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at John Kauinana Stadium.
HPW: The bar keeps rising higher for Hawaii football and Mililani is a big reason for that.
York: We just want to compete against the best teams. We want to improve and the way we improve is playing good teams. We love to compete against teams like Kahuku, Punahou and Saint Louis. In order to compete, we have to play these kinds of teams. We’ve already played Bosco in Bosco, now we get them here. We’re looking forward to it. This team will expose our weaknesses.
HPW: I haven’t seen vitals like this in a long time for a quarterback. D.J. Uiagalelei is 6-4 1/2, 246 pounds, arm strength, mobility, moves like someone 180 or 200 pounds.
York: He’s difficult to tackle. He’s a big kid, athletic. Baseball player also, and he’s seasoned.
HPW: And he has 24 offers, committed to Clemson.
York: This is his senior year, so these type of guys normally end up in the NFL.
HPW: Some coaches like their defenses to force a great QB out of the pocket. Some are like Cal Lee, who wants to contain certain QBs. How do you deal with Uiagalelei?
York: You’ve got to put pressure on him. We want to get to him, just a matter of how we’re going to do it. We want the QB out of the pocket.
HPW: Sometimes, the best thing a defense can do is just play as physical as possible from snap to whistle.
York: If he wants to scramble, we just want to get touches on the QB. He’s a big dude, not like you can bring him down easily.
HPW: St. John Bosco is 4-0, beating teams from the East Coast and West Coast.
York: They’re quick and they’ve played a lot of top teams already, and they’re smashing them. One team tried to run on them. It’s going to be a challenge for our defense. And a challenge for our offense to sustain drives and get into the end zone.
HPW: Last week was an exhibition of power football. A lot of patience, eating the clock. Forty-five run plays, 26 passes against a very good Kamehameha defense.
York: We’ve definitely got to play at a new level. We find ways to get it done, but it’s tough, too, because our defense is playing so well, a lot of times we get a short field. We’ve gotten the ball at the 1-yard line twice already. Inside the 40, it’s normal. In the Liberty game, we were creative at finding ways to move the ball.
HPW: Being able to move the chains, reduce risk, giving the ball to (Jasiah) Alcover and (Malosi) Sam 37 times (combined).
York: Kamehameha, we ran the ball all day. Both our runners ran for (more than) 120 and another for (almost) 90. That’s not normal for us, but whatever the deal is, we’ll take it.
HPW: This is also a great test for your first-year starter at QB.
York: Once Brendyn (Agbayani) is in a rhythm, he’ll be OK. We know this game’s going to be tough.
HPW: This is different from the Liberty game, which was part of the Aloha Football Classic. Will this game be televised?
York: It’s on TV. It’s so exciting, not just in Hawaii. Having our home field, Mililani’s going to be able to experience a top team in their back yard.
HPW: When will St. John Bosco arrive?
York: They’re staying at the Turtle Bay (Resort). They arrive Wednesday. They’ll have luau shows, dinners, pre-game meal at Outback Steakhouse. From Coach (Jason) Negro to their administrators, they have been first class with us. They took care of us when we went up last year.
HPW: With the game on TV, do you think it’ll be a packed house?
York: The attendance for the Liberty game, both sides were full. A lot of my family was on the other side.
HPW: A lot of Hawaii transplants to Las Vegas.
York: There’s the age. There’s a rule (in Nevada), that’s why they’re bigger. They’re older. You can be 19 as long as you don’t turn 20 during the football season.
HPW: The HHSAA rule is an athlete can be 18 when the school year begins.
York: It’s different up there. That’s why a lot of young guys go up there and can repeat.
HPW: Is that the case with California?
York: Im not sure about CIF.
HPW: Well, St. John Bosco has been great for a long time. They’ve got four- and five-star rated athletes up and down the lineup.
York: The ultimate difference will be the speed. Basically every player on that first-string offense and defense is getting a Division I scholarship, multiple offers, because of their speed. Their D-line is running sub-4.9. Quick. Explosive. Bosco’s D-line will be the best D-line that we’re going to face.”
HPW: Last question, everybody is healthy?
York: We’re healed up and ready to go.