The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
It was a game the Millikan Rams knew how to lose, but found a way to win.
Millikan has suffered some painfully close losses the past few seasons, including the only blemish on this year’s record. But on Saturday night in Peoria, Arizona, with adversity staring them in the face against Sunrise Mountain High, the Rams got tough–and got it done.
Senior running back Nygel Osborne scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the first play of overtime as the Rams emerged with a 33-32 victory, improving to 3-1 to close out their non-league schedule.
“In my mind, I just felt like I couldn’t be stopped,” said Osborne of his TD in overtime. “I just feel like no one was able to stop me and it’s really me against me. So anytime I get in a situation like that, I have to get in a mindset where nobody can stop me in any type of way.”
Rams head coach Romeo Pellum was pleased with his team’s resiliency and their ability to battle back in a tough road environment.
“It was great. They showed a lot of fight,” he said. “The way that they fought and did not give up, and had that bend but don’t break mentality–it was great. We haven’t won any close games since my first game at Millikan. So this was great to show the fight and come out with a W. We needed that.”
Looking back at Millikan’s one-score games over the past four years, the Rams are just 2-9, including that win over Carson in Pellum’s debut as coach. The Rams had lost their last four games that were decided by one score or less, but this team can now put that behind them, and focus on the next portion of their schedule, which starts next Friday at Wilson.
Pellum was excited about the opportunity to take the team on an out-of-state trip, to give his players a unique life experience, as well as a challenging football game.
“They got the experience of traveling like a college team,” Pellum said. “A lot of these kids have never been on an airplane. A lot of these kids have never been to Arizona. So that was a great experience for them. But to be in an overtime game, and come out victorious. No one here that’s been at Millikan has ever been in an overtime game and won it. So that’s a great feeling. It’s an ugly win, but it’s a win in the dub column, so we’ll take 3-1 for our preseason.”
Osborne got the scoring started for Millikan with a seven-yard TD run to cap off Millikan’s first drive and give the Rams an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. The senior running back finished with 13 carries for 89 yards and two scores.
Sunrise Mountain responded midway through the second quarter with a TD run from Micah Johnson (14 carries, 87 yards) with his first of three scores on the night, making it 8-6 Rams.
Millikan would tack on a field goal from Jayden Icasiano, then add more points before half thanks to a well-executed pooch kick, recovered by Matt Martinez at the Mustangs 36. Four plays later, birthday boy Myles Jackson hit Jordan Anderson for a three-yard TD, making it 18-6 Millikan at the break.
After halftime, Sunrise Mountain controlled possession with their running game, and ate up time of possession while keeping Millikan’s defenders on the field in the hot, muggy conditions. The Rams ran just 19 plays from scrimmage in the second half and overtime, while the Mustangs had 38–all but two of which were running plays. Millikan’s defense was also playing shorthanded, as DB Ryan Pellum and LB Riley Tuggle were ejected over the course of the game.
The Mustangs ran the ball 53 times for 282 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Johnson scored twice in the second half to give Sunrise Mountain its first lead, 19-18, with 6:20 left to play. At that point, Millikan’s offense had gained just 25 yards on 11 second-half snaps.
Insert Jordan Anderson, who took a quick screen and raced 46 yards for a needed shot of life (and points) for the Rams. Anderson scored on both of his first two catches, finishing the night with three grabs for 67 yards. After Angelo Miranda caught the two-point conversion, the Rams led 26-19 with 5:43 to play.
The Mustangs would answer right back, however, and Rex Underhill’s 10-yard TD scamper tied the game at 26-all with 3:06 to go. Underhill had a game-high 20 carries for 84 yards.
Millikan had a couple chances to try to win the game with a long field-goal in the closing seconds, but had a 42-yarder blocked to end regulation and send the game to overtime.
Under Arizona overtime rules, both teams start at the opponents’ 10-yard line with four plays to score. Osborne wasted no time, taking the handoff on the first play and running straight up the gut for the score, making it 33-26 Millikan.
The Rams’ defense forced Sunrise Mountain into a 4th & Goal at the seven, but the Mustangs used a tricky “swinging gate” formation to spread the Rams out, and De’Mykal Anderson squeezed his way into the end zone along the right sideline.
The Mustangs then tried to act quickly on a two-point conversion try, but were stopped just short of the goal line while also being penalized for an illegal shift. The officials’ conference delayed Millikan’s celebration, but once things were official the Rams raced onto the field for a hard-earned celebration in the Arizona night.
“I feel like I did great, I feel like the whole team did great,” said Osborne. “We put the effort in with what we’ve been doing ever since the spring and the summer, and we pulled it out. We showed the whole world we’re able to put the effort in and win.”
The Rams will look to keep their winning ways going after a short week. They’ll travel a much shorter distance to play Wilson on Friday night at 7 p.m.