HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Friday the 13th, it's fitting that the semifinal matchup between Mililani and Saint Louis will be a battle of the thirteens.
The Trojans' McKenzie Milton and the Crusdaders' Tua Tagovailoa, each of whom don number 13 jerseys when taking the field for the respective teams, go head-to-head Friday night for a spot in the state championship game, a contest that's sure to be fun for fans and frightening for opposing defenses.
"He's a great player, obviously," Milton said, speaking of Tagovailoa, with whom he played on the same pop-warner team. "He makes some tremendous plays. Like you said, I'm not playing against him. But I think our defense will be ready for him."
The numbers each quarterback has put up in 2015 leave little doubt as to the source of each defense's concern. Tagovailoa, still only a junior, has thrown for nearly 2,400 yards this season, along with 21 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Despite missing most of five games with a shoulder injury, Milton nearly matches his Crusader counterpart in terms of yards but has thrown seven more touchdowns on the season.
The Crusaders, though, lack the powerful ground weapon Mililani possesses in Vavae Malepeai, the senior running back who has totaled 1,686 yards and 28 touchdowns on the season.
"I don't know if you can stop both of them," said Saint Louis head football coach Cal Lee. "But you try and slow them down as much as possible."
On Friday night, Saint Louis will be tasked with doing that without senior linebacker Jordan Iosefa, a future USC Trojan who will serve the second of a somewhat controversial two-game suspension for an ejection against Punahou earlier in the season. Ejections typically warrant a one-game suspension, but Lee says the ILH mandated Iosefa sit out a second game.
"The weird thing about this whole (situation) is that all the coaches in the ILH never heard of a two-game suspension," Lee said in a text message.
Losing a leader on defense is huge, but Mililani's offensive star says the Trojans would have been ready to play regardless of whether Iosefa was on the field.
"Depending on what Saint Louis will give us, we'll go according to that," Milton said. "If they want to give us the short we'll take the short, if they want to give us the deep we'll take the deep."
At stake for Mililani is a second-straight appearance in the state title game. Saint Louis has an opportunity to make their first trip there since 2010, when Marcus Mariota was the Crusaders' quarterback. Both teams, and coaches, know legacies are on the line.
"The feeling that they'll have, whoever wins... They'll be excited beyond comparing of anything else they've ever had," said Lee.
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium. The winner will challenge the Waianae/Kahuku victor next week in the state championship game.