By Wes Nakama
Led by dual-threat quarterback Kini McMillan’s sensational performance, Mililani stunned nationally ranked Kahuku, 28-21, Saturday night to win its first OIA championship since 2018.
A tense capacity crowd of about 3,000 at Farrington’s Skippa Diaz Stadium watched McMillan — a 6-foot, 185-pound junior — complete 20 of 37 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns and add 108 yards rushing and one TD on 21 carries as the Trojans improved to 10-1. They will face OIA third-place finisher Campbell (9-3) in the state Open Division semifinals on Nov. 17.
Kahuku, No. 8 in this week’s MaxPreps national rankings and the only team to beat No. 3 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), fell to 10-2 and will meet ILH champion Punahou (7-2) in the other Nov. 17 semifinal, which will be a rematch of last year’s state title game.
“Hat’s off to Mililani, they played a great game and deserved to win,” Red Raiders coach Sterling Carvalho said. “Tonight they were a better team. We know what we did wrong, but at the same time, Mililani took advantage of it. So tonight was their night.”
Led by McMillan on offense and a surprisingly staunch defense, the Trojans took a 21-7 lead by halftime before watching Kahuku rally back and eventually tie it at 21-21 after Tuli Tagovailoa-Amosa’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Kache Kaio on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed by Manoa Kahalepuna’s extra point.
The Red Raiders then denied Mililani at the 1-yard line after the Trojans had gone for it on fourth-and-goal, but a lost fumble five plays later gave Mililani another chance at the Red Raiders’ 28, and this time McMillan capitalized with runs of 27 and 1 yards. The latter put the Trojans ahead, 28-21, and Lyric Sarae’s PAT came with 6:32 remaining in the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, Kahuku started at its own 15 and following two incompletions and a sack, the Red Raiders faced fourth-and-20 from their own 5. Mana Carvalho then launched a 64-yard punt with no return, but Mililani was able to convert three straight times on third-and-long to preserve the victory.
“On top of the world, I’m so proud of the kids,” said Trojans coach Rod York. “We were fortunate enough to win, Kahuku is a tough team, they play really hard and they have great coaches, great players … but our kids showed up. They gained confidence tonight, a lot more than (before).”
So much so, Mililani was obviously unfazed when the Red Raiders took a quick 7-0 lead after an impressive seven-play, 95-yard drive on their first series, capped by Mana Carvalho’s 31-yard scamper to paydirt and Kahalepuna’s extra point. Despite going three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Trojans later tied the score at 7-7 with a half-minute remaining in the first quarter on McMillan’s 16-yard TD pass to Derek Tsuchiyama and Sarae’s kick.
Mililani then took a 14-7 lead about 90 seconds before halftime when McMillan found Tsuchiyama on a 32-yard scoring strike down the middle of the field, and made it 21-7 with just 12 ticks on the clock on a 25-yard touchdown pass from McMillan to Onosai Salanoa. That field position was set up when Kahuku failed to convert on fourth-and-3 from its own 28.
“I take all responsibility,” Sterling Carvalho said. “It was my fault, I made some bad calls.”
The Red Raiders closed it to 21-14 eight minutes into the third quarter, when Tagovailoa-Amosa found Diezel Kamoku deep on the right sideline and Kamoku dashed all the way to the end zone to complete a 66-yard scoring play. But the Trojans answered with McMillan’s go-ahead TD run with 6:32 left in the game.
“He killed us with his legs tonight,” Sterling Carvalho said.
York said McMillan “called every single play” throughout the night, including several designed QB draws into the teeth of Kahuku’s defense.
“I trust in Kini, I trust my players a lot more (now),” York said. “I let him have it, we rode it through the mistakes, and he came back. We gained a whole lot of confidence tonight, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Defensively, Mililani held the Red Raiders’ vaunted rushing attack to 139 yards, limiting dangerous running back Va’aimalae Fonoti to just 32 yards on 11 carries.
“That was our game plan, let’s take away the run,” York said. “We didn’t stop them, we slowed them down and that’s what we set out to do. The defense played great. We broke down here and there, but we scouted them real well and we were well-prepared.
“Hat’s off to our kids, again.”
Photos: Lori McKeown
Photos: Grant Shishido
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