Going back to the spring football season earlier this year, the Millikan Rams (3-4, 2-1) have had October 1 circled on their calendars. The mission was to defeat Lakewood (2-4, 2-1) and reclaim the Hamilton Trophy that symbolizes the longtime rivalry between the schools. The Rams accomplished that goal on Friday night at DeHaven Stadium with a 49-7 win over their rivals.
Millikan struggled to pull away from the Lancers, leading 15-7 at halftime, but poured it on with 27 fourth-quarter points to put up the 42-point win. Millikan head coach Romeo Pellum was pleased with the victory, but also acknowledged his team’s difficulty finishing drives and putting up touchdowns through the first three quarters.
“I’m pleased that we have the trophy, I’m pleased with some of our performance, but we left a lot of points on the field,” Pellum said after the win. “Like it’s been all season, we have to finish drives in the red zone. We have to do better as coaches to make sure we’re practicing all that stuff to get better for the kids. But overall, I’m happy that we have the trophy, but obviously there’s a lot to do to get better.”
Sophomore quarterback Myles Jackson had a huge night for the Rams, going 25/39 for 422 yards and 5 touchdowns. He hit four different receivers for scores, but his favorite target was classmate Ryan Pellum, who finished with 10 catches for 182 yards and two scores.
“I feel like the game is slowing down a lot and I’m adjusting,” Jackson said. “I love it out here with my guys.”
Pellum was targeted 15 times in the passing game, and had another standout performance as Millikan’s electrifying playmaker. His final grab was a 50-yard touchdown in the final minutes to help pad Millikan’s lead.
“It definitely feels good,” said the younger Pellum of his team’s rivalry win. “(Lakewood) was talking reckless so we had to show them what’s up. They were a little scrappy but I got back at them a few times, I just have to hold my composure.”
While there was plenty of intensity and jawing prior to kickoff, there were no altercations during the game. But there was certainly no love lost as Millikan made a concerted effort to increase its lead in the final minutes.
After taking a 37-7 lead with just over three minutes to play, Millikan successfully recovered an onside kick which immediately led to the 50-yard TD to Pellum. The Rams again attempted and recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and promptly threw a 45-yard TD pass to Tacario Davis to polish off the 49-7 victory.
“Well, we didn’t get the opportunity to play for the trophy in the spring, and our guys really wanted that,” Romeo Pellum said. “So today, it’s a rivalry game, and we weren’t gonna stop. If we could have scored again, we’d have scored again. You know, if that’s a Cabrillo, we’re not doing that. But it is a rivalry game. We didn’t play for the trophy last year, and we wanted to make sure that this game is remembered on that trophy when a year is skipped.”
Lakewood head coach Justin Utupo was happy with his team’s effort early on, but acknowledged that the Lancers have work to do on the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m proud of the way we played one half of football. And the opportunity was there for us in the second half,” Utupo said. “You got to give it up to our defense, they were out there playing a great game. They stuck to the game plan, we were trying to eliminate the big play, but at some point we’ve got to be able to get help from offense.”
Utupo is certainly familiar with this rivalry, going 3-0 as a player at Lakewood and going 2-0 at Millikan as a head coach in 2017-18. Those two wins for Millikan were their only two wins against Lakewood since 2001, prior to Friday’s victory.
“I’ve been on both sides of this thing, and it’s good to see Millikan giving us a competition because for so long, Lakewood ran things here,” Utupo said. “Millikan hasn’t won since when I was there, so it’s good to see them competing finally, because they weren’t doing this before.”
Millikan started the game with an impressive opening drive that led to a Noah Scott field goal. Then Angelo Miranda made the defensive play of the game, intercepting a Lakewood pass and returning it 55 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
Lakewood would pull to within 9-7 on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brayden Downen. He was Lakewood’s leading rusher on the night, with 35 yards on 10 carries.
Stopping the run was a point of emphasis for the Rams coming into the game, and the defense did its job well, holding Lakewood to 101 rushing yards on 25 carries.
“We’ve just been grinding in practice,” said Millikan linebacker Ransom Robertson, who was one of the more impactful players on the Rams defense. “Overall, our mindset has changed. Millikan was the team known for not being able to stop the run and Coach Pellum made that clear that’s not going to be us anymore.”
After Downen’s touchdown, Millikan responded with a quick scoring drive as Jackson hit Pellum for his first TD, a nifty 19-yarder that included a spin move near the goal line.
Millikan also scored on its first drive of the second half as Jackson hit Darius Gaines for a two-yard touchdown pass to make it 22-7 Rams. Millikan then looked poised to extend its lead later in the quarter, but the offense was stopped on fourth down deep in Lakewood territory on consecutive drives. Three times Millikan drove inside the Lakewood 15 and came away with no points on those drives.
Millikan started its fourth-quarter scoring flurry with an 18-yard TD pass from Jackson to running back Brodie Wojcik, then Ajae Gravelly (12 carries, 53 yards) ran in a one-yard TD plunge to put the Rams up 37-7.
Millikan will take on Compton next Friday while Lakewood will host San Pedro during its Moore League bye week.