Trojans turn to Malepeai for leadership, performance during play - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Trojans turn to Malepeai for leadership, performance during playoffs

Mililani Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai (19) Mililani Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai (19)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

When McKenzie Milton, the state's reigning offensive player of the year, suffered a serious shoulder injury in a regular season game against the Kailua Surfriders last month, the Mililani Trojans didn't have to look far for someone to carry the load.

"Leading is basically me just stepping up my game so that everyone can feed off of it," Vavae Malepeai told Hawaii News Now, when asked about assuming more of a leadership role in Milton's absence. "Making sure that everyone is hearing me vocally, not just me leading by example."

If stepping us his game was all it took to demonstrate his leadership prowess, Malepeai has certainly responded to the challenge. In Mililani's three games without Milton, Malepeai has carried the ball 60 times, for 682 yards (11.3 yards-per-carry) and 11 touchdowns.

"Obviously it wasn't just me doing it," Malepeai said. "You have the coaches, you have the support system. It definitely wasn't just me. It's a matter of keeping my faith strong in the lord, coming out here and playing the game that I love with the brothers that I love."

Despite all his success on the field, Malepeai is as humble as they come. Earlier this year, he became Hawaii's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, but his coaches say it's his work ethic, not his nose for the end zone, that's irreplaceable.

"We kind of take it for granted, you know," said Mililani Trojans head coach Rod York. "A guy who comes out every day, works hard, produces Mondays, Tuesday Wednesdays. Game days are easy for him."

For Malepeai and the Trojans, game day against Waianae on Friday figures to be anything but easy. A win guarantees them a spot in the OIA Championship Game, as well as a berth in the state tournament, but for now, Malepeai is most concerned with making sure he continues to set a positive example for his teammates.

"I mean, it's all just fun and games," Malepeai said. "We're trying to cherish every moment that we have and like I said, make the most of every opportunity. Because you never know when it's going to be your last."

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