There’s a little extra juice added to the Donice Hamilton Trophy rivalry game tonight between Lakewood and Millikan. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Millikan.
Lakewood decided not to play Millikan for the Hamilton Trophy during the rescheduled season earlier this year. That didn’t go over well with the Rams.
“We’re fired up and ready to get the trophy back,” Millikan coach Romeo Pellum said. “Lakewood was scared to play us last year for the trophy, so we get the opportunity to play for it this year and bring it back here.”
Lakewood kept the Hamilton Trophy from 2002-16 until former Lancer and then-Millikan head coach Justin Utupo led the Rams to consecutive narrow wins in 2017-18. Now Utupo is coaching at Lakewood where he and his coaching staff full of Lancer alums know what this week means.
“We’ve heard it nonstop this week in practice, ‘This is rivalry week against Millikan, we keep going 100 percent’ so we’re taking this game personal,” Lakewood senior defensive back Julius Jimenez said. “We’re practicing and will play with all of our heart and everything we’ve got.”
In the 60-plus years they’ve been playing against each other, Lakewood has won 37, Millikan has won 24, and they tied once.
“I love rivalry week,” Utupo said. “I’ve been on both sides of this thing as a player and as a coach and it’s exciting. The team that plays together and is the most disciplined usually comes out on top in this rivalry.”
Millikan (2-4, 1-1) is coming off a valiant effort in a loss against Long Beach Poly. The Rams looked dynamic in the passing game with sophomore quarterback Myles Jackson dialed in for 272 yards passing and three touchdowns. Pellum said he’s been progressing a lot every week.
However, the Rams struggled to stop the run and allowed Poly to maintain ball control all night.
“Anytime you let someone run for 285 yards that has to be a huge emphasis the next day, if not the same night when the coaches meet,” Pellum said. “We’re a gap control defense so it’s important that guys understand that, focus on their job and not try to do anyone else’s job. It comes down to coaching as well. Some things have to be tweaked scheme wise to put our kids in the best position to make those plays.”
Lakewood (2-3, 2-0) has won its two Moore League games against Cabrillo and Jordan after three disappointing losses in the non-league schedule. The win last week at Jordan came in the final minutes at Jordan thanks to a touchdown run by quarterback Brayden Downen.
Utupo said he’s very impressed with what he saw from the Millikan game film.
“Millikan has a great quarterback and one of the best receiving groups and defensive backs we’ve seen all year,” Utupo said. “I think the only team that comes close to them is North Torrance, as far as their QB and skill players, and we know how that game went. I think seeing a team that’s similar to Millikan in the preseason is only going to help us. We’re just excited for the challenge.”
The last four Hamilton Trophy games have been decided by 10 points or less.