Q&A: Mililani football coach Rod York

Mililani's Rod York reached the 75-win total as a prep football coach faster than anyone else in Hawaii high school football history. Jamm Aquino / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Rod York doesn’t ask for precision and teamwork.

He demands it. The former ‘Iolani and Hawaii defensive lineman is in his eighth season as head coach at Mililani. Through the ups and downs — mostly ups — York and his staff have been steadfast about learning. For York, the game is in his blood, and the quest for new knowledge never ends. The Trojans will meet top-seeded Saint Louis tonight in the semifinal round of the First Hawaiian Bank/HHSAA Open Division State Championships at Aloha Stadium.

Coach York chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Thursday.

Rod York
Mililani football
Career: 76-20 (.792)

HPW: The DNA of Mililani’s offense comes from Saint Louis, and you’ve always been adding new wrinkles and staying diversified. Saint Louis has a great defense, so this should be a heck of an intriguing matchup.

York: Saint Louis is the type of program, they’re going to do what they did to get here. The defense that they’ve been showing, they’re going to show it against us. Why not? They’ve been dominating teams so why would you change it. I expect to see the two or three looks. The rest is a chess match. We try to find a weak spot, the matchups and openings and when we have them, we try to exploit them.

HPW: The one QB who has been as close as possible Saint Louis’ Chevan Cordeiro — throwing with accuracy, making smart decisions to run — is probably Dillon Gabriel. He has been borderline sensational this season.

York: Dillon’s just got to execute. Stick to the reads, take care of the ball and make good decisions.

HPW: The deep game is going to be crucial with teams like Mililani and Saint Louis. How much contact with the back and sideline judges allow between receivers and defensive backs? How much give and take? It could change the whole game.

York: Whatever crew we get, we’re not worried about that. We have technique in running the routes and if they want to press, we have things to beat press. If they play off, we take the underneath.

HPW: Coaching and playing against Saint Louis is always fascinating when it comes to Mililani. For awhile now, your program has been a landing place for former Saint Louis players who are now coaches. And Coach Cal Lee has been one of your mentors.

York: It’s an eerie matchup for us. Saint Louis is Saint Louis, but me personally, I owe a lot to Coach Cal and Coach Ron (Lee). I’m invited by him to go to these clinics. I’m exposed to great coaching. See how he thinks and how he handles things, and we have a fun time. There’s also some Kahuku coaches. We’re all friends off the field. I owe a lot to him.

I always tell people, he’s the greatest high school coach to come out of Hawaii, and he’s done it in different eras. At the end f the day, he’s the most productive coach in the history of Hawaii high school football. People want to play for him. They want to take their kids to Saint Louis to play for him, and that’s what Coach Cal represents. The best thing about Coach Cal is his brother is probably the smartest coach I’ve met offensively. A guru and genius.

HPW: The coaching pipeline, or coaching tree.

York: A lot of the good coaching that’s come out of Hawaii has gone through Saint Louis. Vae (Tata, former Kahuku coach), one loss in two years. They lost because Saint Louis had the best quarterback in the nation (Tua Tagovailoa) playing against them, and Tua had to play his ‘A’ game. If not, Saint Louis probably would’ve lost. Saint Louis is a program we look forward to. We honor them, but at the same time we honor them by bringing our best.

Along with the good coaches that are doing well at other schools, somehow, someway it’s come through Coach Cal and Coach Ron, I learned the offense through Timmy Chang. He taught me basically everything. Because he went to SMU, my guy one of my best friends, Joel Lane, lives 3 minutes away from me, we’ve added RPOs and other stuff to Timmy Chang’s offense. Coach Cal and Coach Ron, they’re open to helping other people. Just like Coach Vinny (Passas). Because of them, we’re good. Mililani is good. I’m not going to copy the guy who got a C. I’ll copy the guys who got As.

HPW: Same, but different.

York: The difference, Timmy says our offense is the first uptempo run-and-shoot offense, meaning we have adjustment routes, but I’ve added the RPOs and the run game to it, and we’ve been successful offensively. The turnovers (against Kahuku) killed us, but the No. 5 team, Bingham, only scored 17 on them, and we scored 31 and we left points on the field, other than the blocked punt. We’re upbeat and ready to go.

HPW: You feel strongly about some of the things Coach Cal and other coaches have talked about. One would be instant replay when games are at Aloha Stadium. The touchdown that was called back in the Kahuku game was crucial. At the time, hardly anyone knew if it was legal to throw the ball after punting it off your own blocker.

York: We would rather have it this way. Four points (the margin of defeat) doesn’t change who we are or what we do. Four points doesn’t affect us other than the scoreboard. We’re just going to improve on what we’ve done.

The head ref of the OIA has already said they got the call wrong and it should’ve been a TD. For me, it’s over. We didn’t lose the game because of that. At that time, the game was tied, it was a big momentum changer, but it’s just like holding calls. The only thing I didn’t like about that call, I’m pretty sure they didn’t know what to call, but they straight lied and said illegal man downfield. That did not happen.

We use replay in the JPS Classic. It’s effective and good. The OIA should adopt it. We should get the call right. Volleyball does it. The thing is, people work too hard to be affected by a missed call. And sometimes, we get that from the referees, ‘We missed the call.’

In my opinion, it wasn’t human error when our blocker was 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That’s why I’m glad they have to call the player’s number. I’ll fight for my guys when the call is not about human error.

There were calls were missed both ways, not just our way or their way. We didn’t lose the game because of that call. We lost the game because I just did a bad job of coaching. Credit to Kahuku, their players and coaches because they came back, they fought hard and earned the win.”


  1. TooMeke November 10, 2017 1:39 pm

    Good luck Trojans!

  2. Whhy November 10, 2017 2:37 pm

    If ever there was a year when the OIA could knock out the ILH Champ in the semifinal to make it all OIA affair for States this is it. I called it the last year when Milton was playing at Mililani (Mililani versus Kahuku) but that was before Milton got hurt and played hurt that year. This year with a healthy Gabriel and a good Mililani team it will be a site to see tonight. Come on down and say Hi, you will know its me cause I will be wearing RED :).

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