Mililani Taking On The Mules

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

Defensive key to victory for Mililani: First and foremost, the Trojans must tackle well in space. Leilehua has a host of big- play receivers, highlighted by Keoni Piceno and Justin Jenks, so not allowing a 5- or 6-yard gain to turn into a big play of 15 yards or more will be a key. The good news for the Trojans is that they have been solid on the defensive side to date and are currently yield- ing only a total of 183 yards per game, including 75 on the ground. First down will be a key down. Putting Leilehua into second-and-long and third- and-long situations bodes well for Mililani.

Offensive key to victory for Mililani: Pick up first downs and finish drives. Leilehua’s defense is a healthy plus-four in turnover ratio, and it thrives on making key plays in key situations. The Trojans did an admirable job of blocking Pac-Five’s Titus Failauga, one of the state’s elite defensive linemen, in week two, but will face a much bigger challenge this time, as the Mules have proven there is strength in numbers up front with their ability to roll eight linemen into the mix. Both of Leilehua’s first two opponents — Service High of Alaska and Pac-Five — had trouble sustaining drives against the Mules. But Trojan quarterback Jarin Morikawa has more weapons than both of those teams and can turn an average play into a big play.

Defensive key to victory for Leilehua: The Mules need to get pressure on Morikawa and take him out of his comfort zone, a task easier said than done, given his ability to make plays with his feet. Morikawa is playing as well as any quarterback in the state and has the ability to make all the throws in the Trojans’ run-and-shoot offense. His numbers also are misleading in that he’s had his share of dropped passes. Indeed, his percentage could be higher.

The good news for the Mules is that they have as much depth in the interior as any line in the OIA Red West. Morikawa is going to make plays — that’s a given — but if the Mules can eliminate yards after the catch, their prospects will be greatly enhanced.

Offensive key to victory for Leilehua: The Mules likely will have to win the time-of-possession battle to keep the potent Mililani offense on the sideline. Nothing accomplishes that task better than having offensive balance.

Leilehua’s best run game to date has basically been its short passing game (namely the bubble screen), so the Mules will have to mix up their passing routes to keep Mililani off-balance. An improved running game is paramount for Leilehua, which is averaging less than 2.5 yards per rush.

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

Did you know? The schools have split their last four meetings, with the road team winning each of the last two — Leilehua 24, Mililani 13 in 2008; Mililani 21, Leilehua 18 in 2009; Mililani 42, Leilehua 35 in double overtime in 2010; Leilehua 40, Mililani 33 in 2011.