No. 3 Mililani has offensive and defensive weapons to defeat opponents, but physical skills alone aren’t enough.
Coach Rod York sees a lot of heart in the Trojans, the same intangible he sees in No. 6 Farrington, their foe this Friday at Skippa Diaz Stadium. Building the foundation and the Mill Vill (youth club) pipeline were difficult enough, but York found himself flustered in recent seasons.
No matter what the Mililani head coach and his staff taught, no matter how hard they worked, he found himself frustrated by heavy doses of mental errors by his Trojans. York, always seeking knowledge for x’s and o’s, turned to a different source for a more cerebral blueprint.
“I visited De La Salle (Calif.) two years ago and talked to those coaches. It’s a different brand of football there. They are into their kids,” York said.
De La Salle once held the national mark for consecutive wins at 151, peaking during the years of Maurice Jones-Drew, a running back who later played for UCLA and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The result has been a culture of more trust.
“I worked with my leaders and my knucklehead kids, asking them why they do these things. They’ve all got a story and that’s where as a mentor I have to get that,” York said. “They have nowhere else to talk about it.”
Rewiring the thought process of coaches and players, it took time to change the circuits.
“This team is different. They’re still kids, but before we even played the season, they’re the best-attitude team we’ve had, and they’ve proven us right,” York said. “As a team, everyone bought into it, and at camp, we got deep into each other. It’s not always the best, but we’re a lot closer. Our team’s got heart. They have character.”
York doesn’t expect perfection. He expects communication.
“They still do some knucklehead things — we had two personal fouls last game — but the kids are holding themselves accountable,” he said. “We’ve all done things we’re not proud of, but it’s about learning and getting better every day. This feels like a unit, win or lose.”