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Tuiolemotu anchored Trojans tenacious defense

Athlete of the Week: Mykah Tuiolemotu, Mililani football
Mililani coach Rod York doesn't mince his words when it comes to Mykah Tuiolemotu and what the senior defensive lineman means to his football team.

"Mykah is our leader and he's always played like how he played on Friday against Kahuku. Straight up, he should be the Defensive Player of the Year," York said.

What Tuiolemotu did Friday was record a game-high 7 1/2 tackles, including 4 1/2 for losses, with one sack, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry to help the third-ranked Trojans to their first league title since 2014 with a 27-7 win over No. 4 Kahuku at Aloha Stadium.

"He does what he does. I mean, that's normal for us what you guys saw on Friday," York said.

Tuiolemotu, along with fellow defensive linemen Ezra Save, John Tuiletufuga and Shane Kady were instrumental in limiting the Red Raiders to 88 yards of total offense, including minus-37 rushing yards.

"As a coach it's awesome, because your chances of winning goes up about 70 percent," said York, who spoke glowingly about the unit.

"It's obviously one of the best in the state. The four up front and then I think our front seven sets up our whole defense and that's the big reason why we're winning games," York said. "With Mykah there we don't have to blitz sometimes, we don't have to bring an extra guy with Mykah and the other three guys there, but definitely Mykah would be the leader."

The Mililani defense made a pair of important stands in the second quarter of Friday night's championship game.

"The crucial part of the game was the beginning when we turned over the ball a couple times, but when we come on D, they go three and out, and it's like we didn't turn over the ball because they got the ball back for us. Coach Vince Nihipali, our defensive coordinator, has done a tremendous job with our defense," York said.

After Kahuku tied it at 7 early in the second quarter, Mililani quarterback Dillon Gabriel was intercepted by Frisco Aveau. However, Tuiolemotu dropped running back Zealand Matagi for a three-yard loss on first down and Kady strip-sacked quarterback Robbie Sauvao — and recovered the fumble — one play later.

The Trojan offense had first-and-goal a few plays later, but Gabriel was picked off by Joseph Taufa near the goal line. Ultimately, the Red Raiders were unable to capitalize on the takeaway and were forced to punt away four plays later.

Early in the third quarter, Tuiolemotu strip-sacked Thorton Alapa on a third-and-14 to force another Kahuku punt.

"It was just good to see because on our team he's the vocal leader," York said of Tuiolemotu. "I speak to the team and then the captains speak to the team and then he speaks to the team and the kids listen to him. When he talks everybody shuts up, so he has that kind of leadership quality. I'm glad that kid is on my side … or I'm on his side."

At 5 feet, 11 inches and 220 pounds, Tuiolemotu isn't a prototypical defensive tackle. York says Tuiolemotu's success can be traced to his work ethic.

"He's a beast in the weight room. He pushes a lot of weight around, but the thing about it is he's explosive. He's like an Aaron Donald of the Rams," York said.

Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is listed at 6 feet, 284 pounds.

"Mykah is maybe an inch shorter than Aaron Donald. The guy that coached Aaron Donald in college (at Pittsburgh) is Inoke Breckterfield, who is the PAC-12 sack leader and is about 5-11, 270 pounds, so I compare him to both guys," York said.

Another player that York compares Tuiolemotu to is former Mililani and current University of Hawaii defensive end Kaimana Padello.

"He's like him in that he doesn't know that he's undersized. He doesn't even believe that," York said. "Mykah has that quickness and to do it for four quarters against bigger kids says a lot. He slides off the block really well, he uses his hands and feet and lets his eyes take his feet to the ball and he does it with low pad level."

Tuiolemotu earned First Team All-Oahu Interscholastic Association Division-I Red Conference distinction and Honorable Mention All-Hawaii recognition as a junior last season.

York said it didn't take long for coaches to recognize Tuiolemotu's talents when he first joined the Mill Vill Trojans feeder program as a seventh grader.

"I think everybody realized it who was on the team because he was always making plays and he was always dominant and explosive on the inside. It's hard to run with him in the game," York said. "He's not allowed to run scout team against our offense because he ruins the practice and we can't do anything."

"Although he's play D-line since seventh grade, we were debating about moving him to linebacker, but he's just so valuable to us at D-line," York said. "He's a team guy and he plays wherever we want him to, but he definitely can be a great linebacker because he has a nose for the ball, he studies film and his technique is pretty good, his hands and his feet are unreal but his speciality is pass rush, which is what every coach wants."

York noted that Tuiolemotu has "always been mature," which has led to him being tabbed as a captain on the Mill Vill team, as well as his one junior varsity season and his last two years on the varsity team.

"He's a little bit above the rest of his peers, as far as maturity. He's a little bit like a parent and he's like a coach, so he gets on the other kids, which is different from the other guys," York said.

Tuiolemotu and the Trojans (9-2) are seeded second in the First Hawaiian Bank Open Division State Championships. They are idle this week before facing No. 5 Campbell in a semifinal game at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 at Aloha Stadium.

Jana Fukushima, Mililani — Rolled a nine-game total of 1,487 pins to win the individual girls title at the Billy Tees State Championships

Kai Yamada, Mid-Pacific — Rolled a nine-game total of 1,628 pins to win the individual boys title at the Billy Tees State Championships

Pokii Adkins-Kupukaa, Campbell — Caught five passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns and made two tackles with three pass break-ups in a win over Farrington

Ryan Chang, Mililani — Caught six passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in a win over Kahuku

Dillon Gabriel, Mililani — Threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing with two interceptions in a win over Kahuku

Taelase Gaoteote, Campbell — Made 8 1/2 tackles, including one sack and a pass break-up in a win over Farrington

Blaine Hipa, Campbell — Threw for 241 yards and four touchdowns on 11-of-21 passing without an interception in a win over Farrington

Muelu Iosefa, Mililani — Had 2 1/2 tackles for losses, including two sacks in a win over Kahuku

Shane Kady, Mililani — Had 5 1/2 tackles, 3 1/2 for losses, including three sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one in a win over Kahuku

Selau Kalani, Farrington — Rushed for a touchdown and caught another in a loss to Campbell

Sky Lactaoen, Campbell — Rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in a win over Farrington

Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, Campbell — Caught five passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Farrington

Naia Nakamoto, Maui — Rushed for 113 yards and two on 22 carries in a win over Baldwin

Bishop Wickes, Baldwin — Rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in a loss to Maui

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].



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