The Millikan Rams (6-4) are taking their show on the road for Friday night’s CIF-SS first round, visiting the top seed in the Division 6 bracket, Camarillo High (6-4), at 7:30 p.m. It’s the playoff debut for third-year Millikan head coach Romeo Pellum, who had a solid team in the spring but didn’t get a chance at the postseason.
It’s not an ideal draw to open as the No. 16 team in a division, but Millikan is not a program that’s short on confidence under Pellum. He respects Camarillo as a formidable opponent, but also knows his team has shown the ability to compete at a high level this year.
“They’re a good team on film, they’re a disciplined team. They’re going to run the ball and throw the ball, they’re pretty balanced,” Pellum said of the Scorpions. “I think it’s a winnable game for us. I think we out-athlete them, but it’s going to come down to us playing disciplined and executing our gameplan. When we’re playing our best game, we’re hard to beat.”
The Rams weren’t exactly at their best in the regular season finale against Wilson, though they did score 21 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for the 35-12 victory. Sophomore quarterback Myles Jackson threw an uncharacteristic three interceptions in that game, but he’s looked sharp in practice this week and Pellum fully expects a bounce-back game from his talented signal-caller. The Rams are riding a four-game winning streak going into the playoffs, but Camarillo should provide a stronger challenge than they’ve seen over the past month.
One of the key players for Millikan in this matchup will be Arizona-bound senior Tacario Davis, who is a tough cover at wide receiver and an even tougher guy to face as a defensive back. Fans can expect to see Davis shadowing Camarillo’s top offensive weapon, 6-foot-3 wide receiver Jack Maulhardt, who has 679 yards receiving and a team-high 10 touchdowns this season.
“I’m really excited to put on for my city and go get that championship,” Davis said, as he prepares for his first high school playoff game. “I like guarding the best player on the field, shutting them down and making him walk off with his head down.”
The Scorpions will also look to get the ball to junior wideout Brandon Contreras, who leads the team with 40 catches plus has over 500 receiving yards and four TDs. Junior quarterback Brody Meyer runs the offense with 1,874 passing yards in 10 games to go with 18 TDs and 11 interceptions.
The running game has shown up at times for the Scorpions this season, but they are averaging just 2.9 yards per carry in their four losses this season, failing to eclipse 55 rushing yards in three of those games.
Millikan will likely want to take advantage of its deep, talented receiving corps and force Camarillo to cover the whole field and make tackles in open space, but would happily hand off to senior running back Ajae Gravelly against a favorable defensive look.
Either way, Friday is an important test for an emerging Millikan program. The Rams have yet to win a close game this season, and have only played one game outside the Long Beach area this year–at Carlsbad on Aug. 27. Visiting the No. 1 seed is a tough way to start the playoffs, and the Rams are well aware of what’s at stake.
“Right now it’s win or go home, so the kids know it’s a must-win game, that’s it,” Pellum said. “We have to play our best game, our guys have to make plays, and (Camarillo) has to choose what they want to stop.”