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Leilehua And Mules Battle For Central Oahu Supremacy

There are some things you guess at, some you assume, and some you just know. A breakdown of this Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup between Leilehua and host Mililani follows.

Setting the stage – Why to watch:

Even if this game didn’t have Red West title implications, Leilehua-Mililani has become the top rivalry in the OIA in recent years, given the success rate of both programs. Fans have been pointing to this game since the moment last year’s game ended – and with good reason. Unlike some past seasons, this year’s matchup comes at the back end of the schedule, where it belongs. Also at stake, of course, is a favorable seeding for the winner in the OIA playoffs.

Recent history: Leilehua won last year’s meeting, 17-13 at home, but the road team had won two of the previous four games in the series prior to their game Sept. 1. Recent battles between the teams have ended as follows: (2008 – Leilehua 24, Mililani 13; 2009 – Mililani 21, Leilehua 18; 2010 – Mililani 42, Leilehua 35 in double-overtime; 2011 – Leilehua 40, Mililani 33).

Defensive key to victory for Mililani: Manufacture takeaways. Leilehua’s fourth-quarter meltdown versus Kapolei was made possible in part by turnovers by the Mules, including three interceptions. The Mules also had a pair of passes picked off in their loss to Waianae earlier in the season. The Trojans’ defense must also eliminate yards after the catch and avoid giving up the quick score. The Leilehua offense, which is usually balanced, thrives when its short-passing game is akin to a run game.

Offensive key to victory for Mililani: Play turnover-free and possess the ball to keep Leilehua’s own explosive offense off of the field for long stretches. To that end, it all begins with Trojan triggerman McKenzie Milton, whose decision-making has been exemplary all season. Milton entered last weekend with seven touchdown passes against only one interception. Those are championship-caliber numbers, and the Trojans need his leadership and efficiency intact to have a chance here.

Defensive key to victory for Leilehua: Make the Trojans go the long hard route to score. Like Leilehua’s offense, Mililani’s offensive goal always is to be balanced between the run game and the passing game. It is something the Trojans have achieved this season once again, as they currently average only 30 more yards per game running than via the airwaves. Loading up against the run in an attempt to make the Trojans throw the ball may be Leilehua’s best bet here.

Offensive key to victory for Leilehua: Be balanced. Mililani’s defense is yielding only 86 yards per game on the ground, so running the ball is a tall task. But since Leilehua has a short passing game that can easily resemble a run-game, the Mules clearly have the weapons to not only keep Mililani off-balance, but to do the scoring they need. Self-imposed miscues have been Leilehua’s Achilles-heel this fall. Indeed, the only team to stop the Mules offense this season has been the Mules themselves.

Key matchup to watch: Leilehua’s defensive front versus Mililani’s offensive line.