Andrew Valladares didn’t contribute directly to the highest point total in the 38-game history of the Mililani-Leilehua rivalry.
But big plays by the senior slot receiver helped ignite five of Mililani’s eight scoring drives in the Trojans’ 52-35 shootout win to close the regular season Friday night in Wahiawa.
A 59-yard punt return set up Mililani’s first touchdown, two third-down receptions covering 31 and 30 yards in the fourth quarter led to scores and the Trojans (5-2 OIA Red) held off the host Mules (3-5, 3-4) to secure a first-round bye in the OIA playoffs and a state tournament berth with a second place finish in the OIA Red.
“Leilehua’s a tough team. We were hoping to hold them to seven or 14 points, but that’s why they call them the Mighty Mules,” Mililani coach Rod York told the Star-Advertiser’s Paul Honda.
“If we hadn’t made five plays you might not be talking to me right now. You’d be talking to (Leilehua) Coach (Nolan) Tokuda.”
After Mililani went three-and-out on its first two possessions, Valladares sparked the Trojans with his punt return to the Leilehua 24. Mililani converted with a six-play drive that ended with the first of quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s three short touchdown runs.
Mililani opened up a 21-7 lead in the second quarter and kicker Damien Santiago squibbed a kickoff into an open area to the right side of the Leilehua formation and Valladares pounced on the loose ball to give the ball back to the Trojans, who went on to add a field goal to the lead.
Valladares finished the game with a team-high five receptions for 91 yards and was especially valuable on third downs.
On the Trojans’ final possession of the first half, Valladares made a 15-yard grab on third-and-6 to extend the drive and Gabriel’s 3-yard run capped Mililani’s 17-0 second quarter surge. The Trojans held possession for all but 86 seconds in the period’s first 10 minutes.
Leilehua trailed 31-7 going into halftime but closed to within 10 with 9:35 left. With the Mules holding momentum, they had a chance to get the offense back on the field with Mililani facing third-and-5. But Valladares ran under an arcing throw from Gabriel and turned upfield for a 31-yard gain and Jalen Olomua scored on a 4-yard run two plays later.
Leilehua answered with another touchdown and forced Mililani into a third-and-9. Gabriel fired a throw to Valladraes over the middle for a 30-yard completion and Olomua’s third touchdown of the game all but sealed the outcome with 2:23 left.
Valladares closed the regular season as Mililani’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 334 yards and complemented a Trojan ground game that produced 307 yards led by Darius Muasau (121 yards), Olomua (95 yards, three TDs) and Gabriel (81 yards, three TDs).
Mililani will now have a week off to recharge before returning to action in the quarterfinals of the OIA Division I playoffs. Another win would give the Trojans one of the OIA’s four spots in the state tournament’s Open division.