Mililani Rides “Elephant” into State Semifinals
By Rodney S. Yap
Trailing 13-10 at halftime, Mililani head coach Rod York was done talking before he walked into the War Memorial Stadium locker room.
York was searching for something to infuse into his players, something to boost their spirits, something positive they could build on. Verbally exhausted, York chose to pulled on the emotional strings of his players, challenging their hearts and ability to execute a come-from-behind victory before the closing credits roll and the picture on their postseason hopes fade to black.
“We had to do something, otherwise we were going to go
home empty,” the Trojans’ second-year coach said, after watching his team outscored Maui Interscholastic League champion Baldwin 14-0 in the second half en route to a 24-13 road win, before a partisan crowd of of about 3,000.
“We left our helmets in the hearts of our kids and they pulled us through.”
York asked his playmakers to make plays, then promptly pulled the keys from quarterback Jarin Morikawa’s twin-turbo and handed him a truck and trailer — in the form of the team’s “Elephant” offense, which is predicated on the legs of junior running back Dayton Furuta rather than the arm of college prospect Morikawa.
York orchestrated the transformation with a successful onside kick to start the second half.
“We thought that if we had the look we were going to take advantage of it, and the kids wanted to do it, so we went for it.”
Once York chose to return home with a difference dance partner than the one he came with, the team was all in.
“Yeah, I challenged them because we had talked enough already. At that point in time, the two teams were pretty even, so we were going to find out who has heart and who is going to make plays.”
Making the biggest play was Mililani defensive end Dakota Turner.
“At halftime, coach (York) was saying we had to gang tackle and go in there and strip the ball,” said the 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior who has verbally committed to a scholarship to San Diego State. “That’s what I did, went in there and stripped the ball. The ball came loose and I just sprinted for my life.”
A few plays later, Morikawa, the state’s most productive passer, completed an 8-yard scoring toss to Ekolu Ramos for the go-ahead touchdown as the Trojans took a 17-13 lead with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Baldwin’s a great team,” said Morikawa, who finished with 181 yards passing, completing 17 of 31 attempts. “They have a bunch of athletes on that team. Give a lot of credit to their quarterback he kept them in the game all the way, he’s a great athlete.”
Furuta added an insurance touchdown on an 11-yard run up the middle with 7:56 left in the game. The Trojans balanced their passing attack with 132 yards rushing.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” York said. “Baldwin is a team with a lot of heart, a team that brings it.”
“We were a little off tonight and should have had a few more catches,” Morikawa added. “But the Elephant was working tonight, so why fix it if it ain’t broke?”
Morikawa praised teammate Turner.
“I mean that was the game changer right there. At that point we’re down and they are driving the ball on us and we’re about to go down by two scores, all of sudden he strips the ball and sets us up with great field position. Not only does he strip the ball but he returns it, too. Dakota is just a great athlete. It’s no wonder San Diego State has offered him a full ride.”
Turner said, “I think the onside kick set the second-half tempo and that’s what we needed.”
Sealing the deal with the “Elephant” offense was icing on the game Turner added. Furuta finished with 109 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
“The double tight-end formation, with the fullback power, straight up the middle, hitting the gaps . . . that worked really well for us.”
Third-ranked Mililani (10-2) will face second-seeded Punahou next Friday at Aloha Stadium in the semifinal round.
“Coach needed us to step up and make a play — he asked the captains to step up,” Turner said. “That’s what I did, I stepped up and made a play. The whole team stepped up and made a play, not just me.”
Baldwin quarterback Keelan Ewaliko finished with a game-high 116 rushing yards on 20 carries. He added 55 yards passing and accounted for all of Baldwin’s points.
“There’s a reason he’s getting a full ride from (the University of Hawaii),” York said of Ewaliko.
“He’s something else, one of the fastest quarterbacks we have faced all year,” Turner said. “He is just a great athlete. He carries his whole team. I heard him in and out of the plays telling his O-line to step up, block for him. He is a great kid and I’m going to see him at the next level. He’s legit.”
At War Memorial Stadium
Mililani (10-2) 3 7 7 7—24
Baldwin (7-3) 13 0 0 0—13
BHS—Keelan Ewaliko 18 run (Ewaliko kick)
MHS—FG Ryan Carlomany 31
BHS—FG Ewaliko 31
BHS—FG Ewaliko 40
MHS—Dayton Furuta 2 run (Carlomany kick)
MHS—Ekolu Ramos 8 pass from Jarin Morikawa (Carlomany kick)
MHS—Furuta 11 run (Carlomany kick)
RUSHING—Mililani: Furuta 23-118, Pakelo Lee 9-31, Morikawa 7-(-17). Baldwin: Ewaliko 21-115, Dusty Flores 11-27, Zacharia Coloma-Mariano 1-5.
PASSING—Mililani: Morikawa 17-31-0-177. Baldwin: Ewaliko 6-23-1-56.
RECEIVING—Mililani: Ramos 8-85, Erren Jean-Pierre 4-49, Khalil Stevens 2-30, Dakota Turner 1-7, Kainoa Wilson 1-5, Colton Dayacos-Gaspar 1-1. Baldwin: Coloma-Mariano 3-38, Ryan Graham 2-7, Kyson-Lee Kaiama 1-11.