STORY BY TYLER HENDRICKSON
Senior quarterback Qeanu Campbell-Caldwell didn’t have his cleanest game on Friday night, but when his team needed him, he delivered. With less than a minute to go, Millikan’s career touchdown leader drove the Rams 70 yards in five plays, connecting with Ezavier Staples for a nine-yard touchdown to give the Rams a thrilling 29-28 victory over Carson on Opening Night at DeHaven Stadium.
“They fought until it was zeroes on the clock,” said Millikan head coach Romeo Pellum in his first game at the helm for the Rams. “We made it really hard on these guys over the summer, and we did it for situations like this. We talk about winning the day, and they did that tonight.”
Millikan faced a 21-7 halftime deficit, and trailed 28-22 with less than a minute to play before Campbell-Caldwell led the team down the field for the go-ahead score. The quarterback was 4-for-4 on the drive for 62 yards, throwing his second touchdown pass of the night to earn the win. QCC was 19/33 for 300 yards through the air, and also added 20 rushing yards with a pair of touchdowns on the ground. With his four touchdowns also came four turnovers, including three interceptions on the night, but his head coach had full confidence in the three-year starter.
“He’s an experienced player. He’s a leader, and he stepped up when it counted,” Pellum said. “He made some bone-head mistakes but he came back and made plays when we needed them. He’s a gamer. (On the last drive) I knew we were going to score. He’s our guy and he stepped up.”
Carson fired the opening salvo of the game with a 65-yard pick-six by Makoa Tuisalo’o on Millikan’s first drive. The Rams responded with a game-tying score on the next drive, set up by a 73-yard deep ball from Campbell-Caldwell to Staples. The junior receiver had three catches for 98 yards.
Millikan fell behind by two scores at the break, but halftime was just what the doctor ordered. The Rams found the end zone less than two minutes into the second half, as Campbell-Caldwell connected with a wide open Jerron Lincoln for a 31-yard touchdown. Lincoln came alive in the second half with six catches for 115 yards. Millikan took its first lead with a minute left in the third quarter as Noah Scott’s 20-yard field goal made it 22-21 Rams.
It looked like the Rams would be able to pad their lead as Carson muffed a punt deep in its own territory and Millikan’s Matthew Garcia came out of the pile with the football. However, since the muffed punt went into the end zone, it resulted in a touchback for the Colts. Carson took that break and ran with it, driving 80 yards in four minutes, capping the drive with a 23-yard TD strike from Ui Ale to Judah Foisia. That put the Colts up 28-22 with less than six minutes to play. Foisia had two receiving touchdowns and added an interception defensively to put the Colts at the Millikan 27-yard-line with less than two minutes on the clock.
The Rams were able to use their timeouts to get the ball back to the offense with :54.9 to play. Despite throwing six consecutive incompletions (including the interception), Campbell-Caldwell shrugged off his cold streak to lead the game-winning drive.
Millikan (1-0 ) remains at home next week and will host Thadd MacNeal’s Carlsbad High School team on Friday night. Carson (0-1) hosts Edison next Thursday night.