The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
A famous Bruce Lee quote about surviving adversity starts, “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it.”
The Millikan football program has embodied Lee’s mantra through trials and tribulations this season.
Flexibility and adjustments throughout game forfeitures, coach suspensions and ill-timed injuries have kept the Rams charging forward and into the CIF Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinals on Friday against visiting Cypress. Kickoff at DeHaven Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“Our mental mindset is 1-0 every week and every day, in school and on the field,” Millikan senior Angelo Miranda said. “No matter what.”
A big reason for that mindset is the style of leadership from head coach Romeo Pellum.
“I try to keep them laser focused and let me deal with all of the off the field nonsense that’s going on because that’s not fair to them,” Pellum said. “Their focus should be Cypress. As a head coach I have to be the one dealing with everything else.”
“The way we did it was focusing on practicing,” Millikan junior Matthew Robinson said of ignoring distractions. “We’ve been locked in and watching way more film than usual.”
Millikan (5-6, 4-1) finished second in the Moore League after winning all but two games on the field. The Rams rolled to a 49-21 victory at Saugus in the first round last week despite a slow start.
“I’m not going to say I wasn’t worried but this team is resilient and our defense did a great job and I knew our offense was going to put up points,” Pellum said.
The Rams offense has scored 481 points in 11 games this season thanks in large part to the phenomenal play from quarterback Myles Jackson. The junior has set records this season while averaging 336 yards and four passing touchdowns per game. He has also rushed for 401 yards and seven touchdowns.
CLICK HERE to read more about Jackson’s impressive performances at Millikan.
A major key to Jackson’s success is the variety of skill guys he has at his disposal. Ryan Pellum, Jordan Anderson, Matt Martinez and Angelo Miranda all have over 25 receptions, 445 yards and four touchdowns this season. Anderson has a team-leading 934 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Good coaching and their scheme has helped us spread the ball around,” said Miranda, who missed a few games with injury.
The return of a healthy Miranda has helped the passing game, but Pellum knows that getting one of his team captains back in uniform means more than just statistics.
“He’s a special dude,” Pellum said of Miranda. “He’s a four-year guy who knows the system. He probably watches more film than some of the coaches. He’ll play in college, I don’t know where, but he’ll be a steal for someone on both sides of the ball, and he can be a returner.”
Miranda and his fellow seniors carry themselves with a confident aura that’s a product of familiarity.
“The swag comes from this group being together for so long,” Martinez said. “We’re just comfortable with each other. We’ve grown as a team and that’s why we have so much swag and carry ourselves the way we carry ourselves.”
Millikan’s offense will need to be self-assured against a Cypress defense that’s led by juniors Brayden Sjostrom (#12) and Rocco Burdett (#42) and has only allowed more than 21 points in two games this season. Millikan has scored more than 21 points in all but one game this season, and it’s fair to say the Centurions haven’t tried to stop athletes that are the caliber of these Rams.
“There are no egos here and we have got to win by any means necessary,” Pellum said. “We’re going to take what they give us.”
Cypress (11-0, 5-0) is the Empire League champion that’s outscored its opponents 448-177, but the Centurions are coming off their closest win of the season 28-26 over Highland in the first round of the playoffs last week.
Quarterback Aidan Houston (#15) has been almost all of the Cypress offense in the read option look with 3,492 total passing and rushing yards. The dual threat junior has 19 touchdowns this season and scored three rushing touchdowns last week while completing 15 of his 17 pass attempts. He’s completed almost 70 percent of his passes this season.
Houston’s favorite target is Matthew Morrell (#3) who is completing a stellar career at Cypress with over 1,200 yards receiving this season. The senior has racked up almost 4,000 yards total offense and 42 touchdowns in three years at the Varsity level.
Pellum thinks the play and leadership of his linebackers will be key to victory this week.
“It’s recognizing formations because everything they run there’s tendencies for those formations,” Pellum said. “It’s got to be disciplined football. If we can stay locked, and get hits on (Houston) to make him pay the price for running the ball, and make him want to throw it to (Morrell) and then shut him down we should be in good shape.”
Last year, Cypress lost to Long Beach Poly 35-0 in the Division 4 semifinals. The Centurions have played in 11 postseason games in the last four full seasons.
Millikan hasn’t hosted a playoff game since 2018.
“It’s a huge deal,” Martinez said of hosting. “When we played Saugus the one thing that was on my mind was that I wanted to host a playoff game. The atmosphere, I get to have all of my family and friends come out, it’s going to be electric. And the Millikan Mob, I can’t wait for Friday.”
“It’s huge to be able to be comfortable and familiar,” Pellum said. “We’re not leaving at 1:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. Hopefully we take care of business this week so we can possibly have another week.”
Miranda also wanted to send a message to the Millikan faithful.
“Come out, it’s going to be a show,” he said.