A young Millikan team missed its opportunity to start the 2021 season with a win on Friday night, falling to a disciplined and scrappy Santa Ana team. The Rams jumped out to an early lead but saw it disappear after a series of missteps, with their comeback effort falling short in a 48-41 loss to the Saints.
“We’ve got to do better,” said Millikan coach Romeo Pellum. “There were times where I could’ve made better decisions managing the game. I knew coming in we’d make some mistakes because we’re young, but we have to learn to finish. We can’t drop passes and make mistakes and win. We have to attack adversity and finish.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair that featured an impressive debut of Rams sophomore quarterback Myles Jackson, who has several scholarship offers. Jackson started off 9/11 for 130 yards and two touchdowns, with the two incompletions coming on a two-handed drop by the receiver and a smart throwaway on a rollout.
Jackson hit Matt Martinez for a 50-yard touchdown for the first score of the game, but the Rams saw Santa Ana score and take a 7-6 lead on the ensuing possession. Millikan marched down the field and Jackson hit Ryan Pellum for a 13-yard strike to retake the lead. Millikan took that 13-7 lead into the second quarter. There was a wild 30-second sequence early in the third quarter that saw Santa Ana score, recover an onside, score again on their next play, and then the ensuing kickoff go for an 80-yard touchdown by Pellum. The teams traded turnovers and punts after that and Millikan trailed 21-19 at halftime.
The second half is where things went sideways for Millikan, as the Saints scored 21 unanswered to start the third quarter, with QB Sergio Torres piling up five total touchdowns in the game. The Rams found themselves trailing 42-19 late in the third quarter, the game nearly out of reach.
Millikan battled back with an impressive effort, as Jackson ran in a touchdown and Pellum scored the two-point conversion. Santa Ana snapped the ball over Torres’ head on their next possession and Ryan Chester jumped on the ball for the Rams to get it back for them. They capitalized quickly after a 23-yard Jackson to Pellum connection, and then another rushing touchdown for Jackson.
Millikan trailed just 42-33 at that point with nine minutes left in the game–but that’s where things went off the rails. After forcing a three-and-out, the Rams were preparing to receive a punt. But Pellum muffed it, and was ejected from the game for arguing with the officials over who recovered the fumble.
“We have to do a better job of keeping our heads,” said Romeo Pellum.
Santa Ana capitalized on the switch in momentum as well as the Rams seeing one of their top players head to the sideline, scoring to make it 48-33. Incredibly, Millikan kept coming and pulled within a score after a 31-yard connection between Jackson and Angelo Miranda, then Jackson dove in for the two-point conversion to make it 48-41 with a minute left. But the onside kick was recovered by the Saints, and they were able to run the clock out.
“We score 41 points, we’re supposed to win the game,” said Pellum. “All these guys wanna be D1 guys, they’ve gotta make plays. Don’t just talk about it, be about it.”
A major bright spot for the Rams was the varsity game debut of Jackson, who finished with a passing state line of 24/41 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Factoring in his rushes he had more than 400 yards and five touchdowns, an impressive debut.
“He kept his composure for the most part, he made some big time throws and he extended plays with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield,” said Pellum.
The Rams (0-1) face an even tougher opponent next week when they travel to Carlsbad.