Lights, Cameras, Action: Baldwin vs. Mililani Tonight
By Rodney S. Yap
Two of the best prep quarterbacks in the 50th state will lead their respective teams into tonight’s quarterfinals of the First Hawaiian Bank Division I state football tournament.
Maui Interscholastic League champion Baldwin High School hosts Mililani at War Memorial Stadium today at 5 p.m. The game will be televised live on OC16’s channel 12. The winner will advance to the semifinals to face second-seeded Punahou next Friday at Aloha Stadium.
“Right now, I’ve got a little butterflies. But that’s how it is, it’s a big game,” said Baldwin head coach AJ Roloos Thursday after practice. “We are the underdogs and nobody expects us to win. I’d rather take that route than being favored to win.”
The other first-round Division I playoff game is a non-televised contest between Farrington at Kealakehe on the Big Island. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The winner will meet top-seeded Kahuku in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader next Friday at Aloha Stadium.
Tonight’s Baldwin-Mililani game can also be heard live on ESPN AM550, starting with the pre-game coverage at 6:45 p.m. Barry Helle and Fred Guzman will be calling the action.
The MIL and some of the state — particularly Farrington — know of Baldwin quarterback Keelan Ewaliko. Other’s have watched his his highlight videos.
Without a doubt, the two-time MIL offensive player of the year is as good as advertised. What makes him great, however, and perhaps the greatest ever to play the game here in 88 years of football, is his playmaking ability running the ball, passing it and kicking it.
It’s that triple threat that Ewaliko possesses that makes him so dominate and arguably one of the best players in the state. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior raised his rushing average to 10.7 yards per carry in 2012 and accumulated an MIL record 4,146 total yards in his 21-game regular-season career.
What the Trojans’ defense will be looking at when staring across the srimmage line tonight is an athlete who averages 197.42 yards in offense and scores more 15 points per game.
Miililani quarterback Jarin Morikawa is a passer, like Timmy Chang, Jason Gesser and Kenan Sadanaga. Out of the spread formation, or run-and-shoot, Morikawa can fling it with the best and his numbers are astonishing: 3,111 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, completing 265 of 452 pass attempts.
Morikawa’s college passer rating is 134.94.
“That Mililani team is good,” Roloos said. “We have to limit our turnovers and try and take advantage of our scoring opportunities when we can.”
Roloos attended the Kahuku-Mililani OIA Red Championship game and came home impressed with Morikawa’s skills.
“Their offense is tremendously good and their quarterback is the real deal. Watching him play live at Aloha Stadium was something special.”
Roloos is convinced the only way to slow down Mililani is to take a page out of Kahuku’s defensive playbook.
“We have to put pressure on their quarterback and force him out of his comfort zone. If we can do that we should be alright,” Roloos said.
Kahuku applied a fierce pass rush that resulted in a couple of sacks and forced Morikawa to throw the ball away. The pressure also resulted in three interceptions.
“If we can just get a little pressure and maybe force him to run . . . but if we give him time to throw, he’s going to kill us.”
In the OIA Red semifinals against Farrington, the 6-foot, 180-pound Morikawa was 22 for 35, 357 yards and five touchdowns.
Farrington head coach Randall Okimoto cited his team’s lack of pressure on Morikawa as the primary reason for the loss.
Morikawa, who is headed to Illinois State next year, has three receivers with more than 38 receptions and 500 yards receiving. Ekolu Ramos, a 5-10, 155-pound senior, is the team leader with 41 catches for 628 yards and eight touchdowns. Erren Jean-Pierre, 6-1, 190, averages 15.1 yards per catch and has six touchdowns to his credit, the other receiving threat is sophomore Kainoa Wilson (42 catches, 568 yards, 5 TDs).
Roloos said the Bears’ defense pressure will come from their linebackers Jordan Hoiem and Teva Eldridge, or defensive ends Miki Fangatua and Semisi Malafu.
“It might come down to a special team’s play just for us to get the momentum,” Roloos said. “We’re going to need to get something to turn the tables in our favor.”
Baldwin’s special teams play this year has produced above and beyond expectations, 1,178 yards compared to its opponents 413.
Return specialist Abraham Reinhardt is the team’s second leading scorer with eight touchdowns, six coming off kick returns.
“Special teams is huge for us and have had to rely on special teams this year,” Rolooos said. “It’s something we take pride in.”