Mililani Tak­ing On The Mules

MidWeek Islander (Central Oahu) - - Central Oahu Sports - By JACK DANILEWICZ

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 big­play re­ceivers, high­lighted by Keoni Pi­ceno and Justin Jenks, so not al­low­ing a 5or 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 yield­ing 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 thir­dand-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.

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