At 9-2, the Mililani Trojans are having one of their finest football season ever, but the one prize they have their eyes on isn’t quite in grasp yet.
The OIA Open champions need a win over Campbell, the league’s third-place team, to qualify for the championship round in the Open Division. Mililani and Campbell play on Friday, 4:30 p.m., at Aloha Stadium.
The Trojans overwhelmed Campbell during the regular season, 52-14, but Coach Rod York and staff don’t lose perspective. York was in a film study marathon this week, but had enough time to chat with Hawaii Prep World on Wednesday.
HPW: I’m always intrigued by the new wrinkles coaches install at this time of year, but your offense hasn’t needed anything else but pure execution with Dillon Gabriel being so efficient.
York: We’re going to stick to what we do that got us this far. We always add things for whoever our opponent is, our beaters. We already put our Campbell beaters in. We’re going to concentrate on our mental preparation and our mind-set.
HPW: The three-week break before the OIA playoffs, and the two-week break before this game were much needed. Your team didn’t have a bye from Aug. 4 until Oct. 5. And there was a trip to St. John Bosco in there.
York: For us, it’s weird because every time we practice we get hurt. Last week, we had there, four days off. They reset their mind-set. The long bye several weeks ago did wonders for us. You could sense the legs got stronger. Guys like Ryan Chang came back and were in another gear. This bye week has been great for us. We had guys hurt in the bye week and they came back.
HPW: Some teams are paring back with the daily film study. How does your team approach that.
York: We do an hour of film per week and that’s all in one day, and that’s today (Wednesday). We get out of class today at 12:45 p.m. We just focus more on our execution. We don’t have the leisure to have film study every day. That works great to us. If we do too much film with the kids, they start thinking too much. Once we get to Friday, the rest is all execution.
HPW: Your emphasis on execution, on fine-tuning, on mastering every option available, it is practical and requires precision.
York: Don’t give them too much to do wrong. Give them less to do right. We want our kids playing fast. If you really look at us, we don’t do anything special. We’re really only running five plays to the left and five plays to the right, and your screen game and your run game.
HPW: That reminds me a lot of June Jones. The perfect timing between everyone on offense. He would say we do reps every day, again and again, and if we do that, nobody can really stop us.
York: We were just talking about it the other day, the only time June Jones coached at Kapolei, they whooped us in our homecoming and they win a state quarterfinal game against Punahou. Me and a couple other coaches were talking about how June Jones is the man, talking about the protection. He never gives away his protection schemes. Me and Rob Crowell, the O-line coach at Saint Louis, we were talking about that at our clinic.
HPW: That’s what coaches do, the ones who are obsessed with the game and always studying every bit of information.
York: A lot of the work gets done here at the garage or we meet up to have share a meal.
HPW: Campbell is sneaky dangerous, of course, great athletes, young team. Their RB, Sky Lactaoen, is deceptively explosive in small spaces.
York: Sky is a smart runner, quick in the hole, gets up there and he’s gone. His feet are always moving. And they’re loaded at WR and SB with Poki‘i (Adkins-Kupukaa), and Titus (Mokiao-Atimalala) and Toa (Mokiao-Atimalala), and No. 2 (Christian Quiambao). They’re beasts over there.
HPW: What did you think about their freshman QB, Blaine Hipa. He looked sharp in his start.
York: They play a lot o QBs, so you’ve got to be ready. They’re not afraid to insert a different QB in the middle of the first quarter, second quarter.
HPW: The consistent, steady leadership of your seniors like Dillon is another impressive aspect.
York: We’ve got to protect our QB, we’ve got to run, get Dillon going of course, but it all depends on what Campbell shows us. We expect a three-man front, a four-man front. We’re ready for whatever they’ve got. Press man, play off, we feel like we’re ready for everything. Of course, if we don’t protect him, we’ll have a hard time.
HPW: The most underrated player on your defensive unit is…
York: Mykah Tuiolemotu.