The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
There are improbable results every year during the CIF Southern Section football postseason, and Millikan just happened to be on the wrong side of the storybook ending in the Division 4 quarterfinals Friday night.
The Rams had a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter and kept the ball inside Cypress territory from the six-minute mark to the three-minute mark. However, Millikan turned the ball over and missed a field goal on two separate drives to leave the door open for the visiting Centurions.
With less than three minutes left to play, Cypress quarterback Aiden Houston proceeded to lead his team on a game-winning 80-yard drive that concluded on touchdown and 2-point conversion passes to Blake Cousimano with no time left on the clock. The Centurions stormed the field after their dramatic 29-28 win that moves them to the semifinal round for the second connective year.
“We had time and chances to put the game away but we didn’t,” Millikan coach Romeo Pellum.
Cypress (12-0) took a 14-0 lead, but a pair of touchdown passes from Millikan’s Myles Jackson and Ryan Pellum tied the game before the end of the first quarter. The Centurions took a 21-14 lead to halftime, but a pair of Jackson touchdown runs gave the Rams (5-7) their only lead of the night 28-21 headed to the fourth quarter when Houston’s heroics decided the tight contest.
“It’s hard that anyone had to lose that game,” Cypress coach Rick Feldman said. “(Millikan) is so explosive, and we knew they were going to get some like they did. That’s just a testament to our guys, their heart and their perseverance. They don’t give up.”
Jackson completed 16 of his 23 pass attempts for 252 yards with two touchdowns passes and two touchdown runs to finish the season with 49 total touchdowns. Pellum racked up 158 yards on seven catches. Jayden Hunt rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries. Junior linebacker Matt Robinson led the defense with 12 tackles and a pair of sacks.
Houston carried the Cypress offense with 202 yards, a pair of TD passes and an interception on 17-for-29 passing. The junior also went in the stat book for 13 rushes and 62 yards. Receiver Matt Morrell led the Centurions with 76 yards on seven catches— most of which came on the game-winning drive.
Cypress opened the game with an eight-play, 89-yard drive that featured seven run plays and was capped by a 21-yard touchdown run from Nathan Schneider. After the Centurions recovered the ensuing pooch kickoff, Houston found Rocco Burdett for another 21-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Millikan responded with the Jackson to Pellum touchdowns in the next four minutes to tie the game, but the Cypress defense came up with some big stops to keep the Rams out of the end zone until late in the third quarter.
The Centurions retook the lead with the only score of the second quarter thanks to a Millikan fumble deep in its own territory. Houston capped the short TD drive with a four-yard run.
Cypress missed a long field goal on its first drive of the second half. Millikan couldn’t get a first down on its next drive, and its ensuing punt was partially blocked.
Robinson and fellow defensive teammates like Ethan Steffany picked up the pressure in the second half, and forced a turnover on downs on that drive. Cypress didn’t pick up another first down (without the help from penalty) until the final drive.
Penalties loomed large as both teams were whistled for 12 flags and a combined over 300 penalty yards.
Turnovers were also key down the stretch, and although Ryan Chester Jr. picked off a tipped Houston pass with about six minutes to play, Jackson gave it back with a fumble in the Cypress red zone a few minutes later.
Cypress fumbled on the next play, but the Rams went three-and-out before missing a field goal.
That opened the door for the Centurions to go on their game-winning drive that saw Houston feed Morrell five times the 12-play drive. It looked like the Rams had stopped Cypress, but on 4th & 10 at the Millikan 41-yard line, Houston bought time and threw a prayer to Trevor Monteleone for a 21-yard gain and first down.
With four seconds to play, Houston bought time with his feet again and hit Cousimano near the pylon for the TD with no time on the clock.
“We pretty much always go for two in that situation,” Feldman said. “I liked our chances better to win right now than to go back and forth in overtime with them.”
Again Houston found Cousimano on a quick pass to the goal line where the referee called him in the end zone on a very close play.
“They missed (the 2-point conversion call) and our kids have to pay the price.”coach Romeo Pellum said. “I’d rather have the referee crew that were at the Saugus (in the first round) game to call this one because they were better. It’s bad, they sucked.”
Pellum was obviously disappointed, but made sure to credit his seniors for their hard work.
“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “When I came here (four years ago) we started with 55 kids. I only had six kids (on this team) that were here my first year. It speaks a lot to the saying, ‘Only the strong survive.’ I love those guys so much.”
Now the Millikan football eyes are fixed on the future with guys like Jackson and Pellum lined up to return for their senior seasons.
“Last year we went to the playoffs, this year we went to the quarterfinals, so next year it’s time for us to win a championship,” coach Pellum said. “That’s the expectation.”