Familiarity Breeds Success For Mililani’s Efficient Offense

Coming out of spring practice last May, Mililani head football coach Rod York already knew that if his team was to be undone this fall, it would have to come from without, and not from within. Cohesiveness would not be a problem, he was sure.

“The team is close this year,” said York. “They’re like brothers – like a family. Last year, we had 11 new starters on the offense, and the team chemistry wasn’t there. It got a lot better as the season went on, but it was a little too late. This team really bonded from the beginning. We made sure we did a lot of team-bonding activities, and it’s made a big difference.”

Mililani had won six games in a row heading into last Friday’s OIA Division I championship game with Kahuku, having already wrapped up one of the league’s three berths for this week’s state tournament. Among the tournament field, the Trojans may be one of the most balanced teams, as they have been stellar on both sides of the ball for much of the season.

Offensively, a year after inexperience undermined their momentum, they and quarterback Jarin Morikawa have grown into one of the state’s most efficient units. Mililani entered last weekend averaging 359 yards a game, including 290 per game through the air. Morikawa is putting the closing touches on a great senior season with 32 touchdowns against only eight interceptions.

“He’s been outstanding,” York said of Morikawa, who has thrown for 2,868 yards. “He’s been good at going to his open spots, getting the ball out (of his hands), and spreading the ball around to different people. He’s the commander – and that’s good because we have the ball in his hands on almost every play.”

Morikawa’s strong arm and quick release are why he’s one of the state’s top playmakers. Coupled with Mililani’s strong line play up front, the Trojans have yielded few sacks to the opposition this season.

Mililani’s offense also features game-changers in receivers Ekolu Ramos (16.3 yards per catch, seven touch-downs), Erren Jean-Pierre (16.4, six TDs), Kainoa Wilson (five TDs), Preston Sinn and Colton DayacosGaspar. In the backfield, running backs Dayton Furuta (12 TDs), Kamalii OlayanKeawe and Antonio Boies all are averaging better than 4.8 yards a carry.

As well as the offense has performed, the defense usually sets the tone, having given up just 13.7 points per outing to date. Mililani has been especially stout against the run, yielding only 101 yards on the ground to opponents per game.

“They’re definitely the key,” York said of his defense. “We lean on them every game, and in every single game, they’ve played well. Not many teams have scored more than twice on us.”

York revealed that standout defensive tackle Rex Manu will miss the state tournament with a torn MCL, but the team is healthy elsewhere on the defensive side. Senior Nathan Ortiz has moved into one tackle spot in the interior to compensate for the loss of Manu. The front seven also features line-backers Dayton Furuta, Mike Atuaia and Jacob Afele and linemen Mene Perese, Dakota Turner and KK Padello. Beau Winchester, Kainoa Souza-Paaluhi, Ian Namu and Bronson Kaleinamoku-Chun make up the secondary.

Special teams usually play a big role in the post-season, and York is counting on solid play from the Trojans in that regard. “We can still be better (on special teams),” he said. “The kids have worked hard on it. Jarin is probably averaging 45 yards on his punts, and we’ve gotten the few onside kicks we’ve tried. We haven’t broken any returns past the 50, but we usually get it to the 35 or 40 so we’re usually starting with good field position.”