Mililani Expects Big Things From Talent-laden Football Team

As Rod York watched his 2012 Mililani High School football team during the off-season and in its summer conditioning in recent weeks, he was filled with flashbacks from the fall of 2010. That can only be a good thing since that was the year the Trojans took the OIA title.

“We feel good about our team as always, but this year feels different – like our 2010 team,” said York, whose team went 4-6 last year. “The attitude and the leadership we have is like that team. We have too many leaders to mention. That’s what’s great about this team.”

Such has been Mililani’s level of efficiency on the offensive side in recent years that the physical Trojan defense has been less visible. But that isn’t likely to be the case this year.

“We hope to be strong on both sides of the ball, but the strongest part of the team will be our defensive line,” said York, whose team’s public unveiling is set for Aug. 17 at home versus Pac-Five. “It may be one of the best defensive lines we’ve had here in recent years.”

Mililani returns three starters from the line in Mene Perese, Dakota Turner (Second Team 2011 All-Conference pick) and K.K. Padello. The Trojans also were buoyed by the arrival of Punahou transfer Rex Manu, the younger brother of former Mililani ace Veni Manu. Perese already has committed verbally to attend Weber State next year, while Turner has offers from San Diego State, Weber State and Army.

York is equally excited about the linebacker corps, traditionally a strong position at Mililani, as well as the secondary. Ian Namu and Blaze Cosner were starters a year ago at line-backer and are back again, as is senior Mike Atuaia, who is moving into a starting position. Kapolei transfer Jacob Afele rounds out the unit.

In the defensive backfield, corner backs Bronson “Ala” Kaleinamoku-Chun and Kainoa Souza-Palaahu return along with safety Beau Winchester, one of the state’s most capable players at his position in 2011. Newcomer to the unit is sophomore Jaren Zadlo, who was a starter on JV last year.

“Beau had three interceptions in the first five minutes alone in a pass league game with Waipahu recently,” York said. “Jaren is one of our biggest defensive backs at 5-11, 190. He definitely plays like a senior even though he’s only a sophomore. He’s another Beau Winchester back there. He’s a ball-hawker.

“Bronson’s a great corner – he’s proven he’s one of the best in the state. He has a lot to prove this year, too, and he’s already well on his way. He makes a lot of plays. Kainoa is very smart. He has speed, and he plays the ball really well. He does everything that we ask of him.”

The Trojans officially opened fall camp Monday. Beginning Wednesday, players will remain on campus for a five-day period where they will eat all their meals at the school cafeteria and sleep in the gym.

“It will be about getting acclimated to contact again and gelling as a team,” explained York. “We’ll also work a lot on our special teams.”