It had been almost 40 years since the Millikan football team had been to back-to-back quarterfinals, but that’s where the Rams found themselves on Friday night. Despite their best efforts the run didn’t extend to the semifinals after a hard-fought loss to Culver City, 43-30.
The loss is the end of the line for 23 seniors who led the Rams to the second round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1980.
“Whatever the scoreboard says, we’ve won at Millikan,” said Rams head coach Justin Utupo. “These kids have nothing to be ashamed of. All 23 seniors, the legacy they leave behind–they can leave with their heads held high.”
The Rams were able to slow down the high-powered Culver City offense in the first half, and led 9-7 early in the second quarter after a 27-yard touchdown run for senior Qu’Juan Campbell, who crossed the 1,000 yard mark on the season on Friday.
The Centaurs would score the first two touchdowns of the second half, however, as the well-coached team used its devastating screen game to great effect. After falling behind 28-9, the Rams got back into it when Qeanu Campbell-Caldwell hit Nathan Martinez for a first down on third and four, then Martinez shrugged off a tackler and sprinted to the end zone for a 37-yard score. After a three-and-out stop punctuated by Joshua Robinson-Little’s second sack of the game, Millikan scored on a three-yard touchdown pass from Campbell-Caldwell to Jaylen Jefferson, to make it 28-22.
But the Centaurs’ first play of the next drive was a screen pass that went for 65 yards and set up the game-sealing touchdown. Rams fans would get one more play to cheer for on an 80-yard touchdown run by Campbell.
“We just couldn’t stop their screens, hats off to their coaches,” said Utupo. “Fixing little mistakes like that are what our returners need to do to take it to the next level.”
Millikan ends the season at 8-3, with a lot of talent moving on. Receivers Jayden Davis (four catches, 29 yards), Zach Martin (six catches, 30 yards), Dylan Davis (three catches, 39 yards) and Malik Bradford (two catches, 15 yards) will all be graduating.
Still, it was a successful second eason under Utupo, whose Rams teams are 17-6 the last two years with two playoff wins. Millikan was 1-9 in 2016 before Utupo took over.