The Mililani football team had almost nothing going for it early in Friday’s win at Waianae.
So the Trojans turned to special teams to make things right.
The Trojans trailed 14-0 in the second quarter, punted the first five times they had the ball and collected only two first downs. Feature back Vavae Malepeai couldn’t get anything going on the ground, being held to 16 yards on nine carries, and quarterback McKenzie Milton hooked up on only three of his 10 throws for 26 yards.
But the offense wasn’t alone in struggling.
Mililani’s defense matched Waianae’s by forcing punts on every possession in the first quarter but was losing the battle for field position. The Trojans got the ball on the wrong end of the field every time (the 33, 15, 15 and 1) while allowing Waianae to set up an average of 52 yards from the end zone.
Waianae scored its first touchdown by covering 31 yards in four plays and, after another punt, watched 210-pound fullback Mahvan Tau run up the gut and cover 74 yards for another score. That is when a team playing in hostile territory is supposed to fold. But the Trojans responded.
Malepeai took advantage of being able to get up a head of steam on the ensuing kickoff and weaved through the Seariders for a 95-yard touchdown on the kick return, and by the time he shed his last tackler, Mililani had become a different team. The defense forced a fumble and Milton tied the score three plays later with a touchdown pass to Dayton Furuta.
Momentum is a fickle lady, and she left Mililani’s sidelines again after the spike. Waianae had her on its arm through halftime, but the Trojans’ special teams won her attention once again.
With the Trojans trailing 17-14 and Waianae punting from its own 16, Bronsen Ader fielded Stanton Spencer’s punt at midfield and moved toward the sideline at a slow lope. He cradled the ball in the crook of his right arm and kept his left hand extended the entire time. He was like a general high on a hill above the action, pointing out threats to his advance. He would point at a member of Waianae’s coverage team, then watch his troops remove the threat. This repeated itself twice more before he kicked into high gear and took the punt back to the 1-yard line, where he was pushed out of bounds. Malepeai punched it in for a lead that Mililani never relinquished.
And it was all set up by special teams.