HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Trojans slide to No. 9
So their streak of victories in the much-improved Oahu Interscholastic Association Red West has come to an end.
It matters not to the Mililani Trojans, who clinched first place before losing at Aiea on Friday in the regular-season finale. The defeat was Mililani's first in the conference after nearly three seasons of perfection.
Above trivia, however, the Trojans are already looking forward to the Oahu Interscholastic Association playoffs. It's just that there's no way to know who to look forward to: Farrington or Leilehua.
Mililani (6-2, 5-1) slipped to ninth in today's Star-Bulletin Top 10. Kahuku remained at No. 1 for a second week in a row, collecting 12 of 18 first-place votes.
Mililani earned a bye for the first round of the OIA playoffs. In the meantime, arch rival Leilehua meets Farrington for the right to play at Mililani in two weeks.
In the other opening-round playoff matchup, McKinley battles Aiea.
Mililani defeated Leilehua 7-0 in a mud bath two weeks ago, which means a rematch in the playoffs would likely fill the Trojans' stadium.
"That would be exciting, especially after the last game in the mud. The communities would really enjoy it," said Mililani coach James Millwood, whose wife and in-laws are Leilehua graduates.
Farrington, however, is a team that has improved significantly since early-season struggles. Millwood has yet to see any of the Red East teams play.
"For us, it's hard. We don't want to practice and prepare for one or the other," the former Trojans lineman said. "We're gonna wait. We already know about Leilehua, and we'll see what we can find out about Farrington. We're gonna work on stuff we need to work on to get better."
The loss at Aiea was a surprise, but not a shock. Na Alii senior quarterback Kali Kuia is one of the best passers and scramblers in the state. His favorite target, Lofa Liilii, presents problems both deep and short.
Mililani's youth brigade extends to its secondary.
"We'll work on conditioning, tackling, a lot of going back to basics and stuff," Millwood said of the bye week. We always try and make it so that (the bye) does help. If you go about and take it too easy, I think it does hurt, but it's good for the boys to get some rest, recover from the season and get stronger."
Aiea didn't figure in the race for the West title, but Na Alii's strength is another example of the increased power in the Red West.
"I told them we didn't play our best game. Aiea played a good game. If anything, I'd rather lose now than lose in the playoffs," said Millwood, whose team lost at Lahainaluna last year in the opening round of the state tournament.
"Last year, we were 10-0 and once we lost to Kahuku, we lost some steam. We're not happy that we lost, but we'll always try and make a positive out of it," he added.
Perhaps the best aspect of a bye week is the extra time for offensive lineman Micah Kia to heal. The highly recruited senior suffered a fractured tibia early in the season and is working his way back into shape.
"It's good to have Micah back. He probably played three-fourths of the (Aiea) game, but he's still not at 100 percent," Millwood noted.
Kia returned three games ago against Kapolei, entering for just seven plays.
Kahuku is the OIA defending champion, but finished second in the Red East to Castle, a team that just can't seem to garner much respect from voters. Parity in the Red West, however, may have built a league champion among any of its contenders.
"Anybody on our side can make a run for it. I think our conference will help us be ready for the playoffs," Millwood said.