The Millikan and Wilson clash on Thursday night proved once again that football is a game of inches. The Bruins had the ball on the Rams 1-yard line in the final minute but a game-winning tackle at the pylon by senior Matthew Garcia clinched the Senior Night victory for Millikan 28-21.
“It was a win or lose situation,” Garcia said of play. “It’s big boy football so I had to put a stop to it… I just wanted to show out for everybody on Senior Night.”
Millikan (3-2) led by 14 points with 10 minutes to play and Wilson (3-1) nearly came back to force overtime. The Bruins actually got four plays from inside the Rams 10-yard line to try and tie the game.
“A lot of guys made big plays,” Millikan coach Romeo Pellum said. “These are the kind of games you want to play and coach in. This is what everybody wants to see. This got both teams better.”
Millikan junior receiver Tacario Davis was the star of the night with three touchdown receptions and an interception.
“I was fired up (for this game),” Davis said. “It means a lot because it’s the last time these seniors will step on this field.”
Pellum also said the intensity was high because neither team got to play it’s top rival during this Spring season, so this became the rivalry game.
“It had a lot of juice because we didn’t play Lakewood,” Pellum said. “These are familiar faces because a lot of these kids know each other.”
When the final whistle blew, Millikan stormed the field in celebration and there was an argument between the coaches while the teams halfheartedly went through the socially distant postgame handshakes.
“I’m not mad at our kids for celebrating, especially after a win like that. If the tables were turned I’d expect Wilson to celebrate like that,” Pellum said. “You look back at the Lakewood game last season when they took the (Hamilton Trophy) from us, they really celebrated. It was a big deal for them. I told our kids then, ‘What are you mad for? They’re supposed to celebrate. If you don’t want them celebrating like that, you win the game.’ That’s just how it is.”
These teams have now played three consecutive close games over the last four years, and the last two were for second place in the Moore League. Two years ago at Millikan, a failed fake extra point by Wilson in the last seconds proved to be the difference.
“That was a great game and classic Wilson/Millikan finish,” Wilson coach Mark Ziegenhagen said. “Millikan just came up with bigger plays than us. Our kids will always win and lose with class. A lot of guys grew up tonight and a lot will learn from their mistakes.”
There were plenty of miscues a big hits by both teams as they combined to make 27 tackles for loss on defense, but offensively this game was chock full of big plays. The first one came halfway though the first quarter when Millikan freshman Ryan Pellum took a screen pass 50 yards for the opening touchdown.
Wilson and quarterback Xander McLaurin answered with a nice scoring drive that included a pair of smart runs by the junior. The second one was a six yard boot to the pylon to take a 7-6 lead on the last play of the first quarter.
Millikan answered on its next possession with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that Davis capped with a highlight catch run after putting his defender on the ground with a stiff arm. The 32-yard score made it 14-7 Millikan.
“We saw the safety wasn’t really disciplined so he’s backpedal and I’d fill in that hole and (quarterback Peter Kim) would just throw it to me,” Davis said. “(The safety) could’ve lit me up (on that play) but he came in low so I gave him the stiff arm. You can’t let the first person tackle you so I got to get him out of the way and just score.”
Wilson tied the game before halftime when McLaurin and receiver Dallas Cooper hooked up for a 29-yard touchdown with less than a minute left before the break.
Cooper and Davis traded impressive interceptions to start the second half, and then Davis caught his second touchdown of the night off a phenomenal scramble and pass from Kim. The sophomore quarterback finished the night with four touchdowns and 261 yards on 18/27 passing. Matthew Martinez was another reliable receiver for Kim with seven catches for over 70 yards.
After Wilson failed to convert fourth and short deep in their own territory, Millikan doubled its lead 28-14 with another touchdown from Kim to Davis with 10 minutes to play.
The game was stopped for about 20 minutes in the second half when an ambulance was called for Millikan senior Gavin Broderick. He fell on his head after a tackle and was carted off the field for precautionary measures, and his teammates surrounded in support him as he left.
When play resumed, McLaurin and Cooper led Wilson back in the fourth quarter and McLaurin’s 35-yard touchdown run with five minutes left put the pressure on the home team.
Cooper set up the possible game-tying drive with a nice punt return, and a pass interference call put the Bruins in scoring position in the final minutes. It actually looked like Wilson scored with two minutes left when Tyrie Robinson was stopped at the goal line on second down. McLaurin couldn’t handle a high snap on third down, and that forced fourth and goal from the one yard line.
“In the huddle (before the play) coach Pellum said we had to watch the QB sneak or boot. When I saw him do the boot I said, ‘He’s been running it all day. He’s going to run it,’” Garcia said.
The senior read the play perfectly and met McLaruin at the pylon to make the stop and win the game.
Millikan is scheduled to play Long Beach Poly next week while Wilson takes on Lakewood in the final games of the Spring football schedule