Mules And Trojans To Vie For OIA Title

Every game seemed like a playoff game this season for the teams in the OIA Red West conference, given the balance throughout the league. Now the “second season” starts for real. A look at prospects for both Mililani and Leilehua follows.

Leilehua Mules

Record: 4-2 overall, 2-3 in the OIA Red West, heading into last weekend’s finale with Waipahu.

Signature wins: 56-35 over Iolani on the road Aug. 17; 28-21 over Campbell at home Aug. 23.

Strength: The offense is averaging a whopping 367 yards per outing and has shown the ability to control a game when Leilehua isn’t turning the ball over. Leilehua’s top five pass-catchers – Tristan Kamaka, Dustin Ancheta-Maeda, Ikaika Piceno, Austinn Nagao and Toma Savea – all average better than 10 yards per touch.

Did you know? Since the state tournament separated into two divisions in 2003, Leilehua has made the DI tournament six times, including five straight appearances from 2007 to 2011.

Mules at a glance: A brutal stretch to its schedule in September resulted in three losses – to Waianae, Kapolei and Mililani. The Mules were in desperate need of a win last weekend in their season finale with Waipahu to gather momentum for the playoffs.

Turnovers plagued the team during the season and often came at the most inopportune moments. Reversing this trend will be paramount for the Mules to give themselves an opportunity to advance in the post-season.

Defensively, the statistics are not those of the prototypical Mules unit, as it is yielding 29 points per game. If the offense can avoid self-inflicted mistakes and possess the ball, it will greatly aid the cause, as it will keep opposing offenses off the field.

Make plans for the state tournament if: Leilehua can win the turnover battle and average at least 21 points per game in every post-season outing.

Mililani Trojans

Record: 6-1 overall, 5-0 in the Red West, heading into last weekend’s finale versus Aiea.

Signature wins: 44-24 over Waianae on the road Aug. 30; 42-21 over Campbell at home Sept. 21; 44-14 over Leilehua at home Sept. 27.

Strength: Take your pick. The explosive offense, which averages 36.7 points per game or the defensive front, which holds the opposition to just 73 rushing yards per outing.

Did you know? The Trojans scored more than 35 points in all but one game and topped the 40-point plateau on three different occasions.

Trojans at a glance: The only question facing the high-flying Trojans as they enter the OIA playoffs may be how they’ll respond in a close encounter, as Mililani won its first five Red West games by an average score of 40-14.

The only close game was their Aug. 15 interleague matchup with 2012 state runner-up Punahou, which resulted in a 24-14 loss. It has been clear sailing ever since for the Trojans, who have ripped off the yardage in huge chunks thanks to a host of play-makers that includes quarterback McKenzie Milton, backs Vavae Malepeai, Dayton Furuta and Pakelo Lee, as well as receivers Bronson Ader, Kainoa Wilson and Bronson Ramos.

Balance has been their strength offensively, as they average 193 yards per game through the air and 186 a game on the ground. For all the team’s offensive might, however, it may be defense that gives them an opportunity to be in the mix for a state title.

Make plans for the state tournament if: They enter it as the OIA runner-up or the OIA champion. Nothing less will suffice for this team. A matchup with Kahuku from the East in the OIA title game is a good bet.