Football Long Beach Poly Millikan

Football: Long Beach Poly Wins Overtime Thriller With Millikan

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation.

The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.

With city bragging rights and the lead in the Moore League on the line, Long Beach Poly and Millikan met at Veterans Memorial Stadium in a meeting of the two best teams in Long Beach. It was a wild back and forth overtime affair, the first time a Moore League team has pushed Poly that far in 14 years, but in the end it was the Jackrabbits who made a few more plays in the extra period, winning on Josh “Noodles” Cason’s third touchdown of the night, 26-23.

“Millikan gave us all we could handle, they’re an incredible team with some great athletes,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We put ourselves in some bad positions in this game and I’m really glad to see that we were able to get out with a win. But (Millikan coach Romeo Pellum) had a great game plan and we knew it was going to be a close game.”

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The game had high drama written on it from the beginning. Poly stopped Millikan for a turnover on downs after a long Rams drive that included a muffed punt by the Jackrabbits. Then Poly scored following a 53-yard connection between QB Darius Curry and receiver Charles Clinton set up a five-yard score by Cason. The Rams ended up fumbling the ball away on their next possession, as sophomore Toa Tamasoa recovered it–but the Rams took a 7-6 lead on an interception return for a touchdown by senior Loyall Mouzon. 

Poly was without their starting kicker due to injury, which loomed large in the close game.The two teams traded long, empty drives that included penalties before Poly went on a 90-yard drive to take the lead back. Curry hit Ezekiel Orozco, Jordan Malu’ulu, and Kamarie Smith on the drive and had a 13-yard run himself as well. He found Orozco in the end zone for a touchdown and hit him on the two-point conversion as well to make it 14-7 Poly.

But at every turn, Millikan answered the bell. The Rams had a quick drive that saw quarterback JP Mialovski find Mouzon for a big gain, then Kyle Parker for a 24-yard touchdown that tied the game 14-14. In the second half, it looked like the Jackrabbits were prepared to take control asl they went on a drive to Millikan’s 22, but Curry was again picked off by Mouzon to end the threat.

Poly ended up taking a 20-14 lead  on a short drive that saw Cason punch it in from five yards out, with 3:22 left in the third quarter. The Rams took advantage of two Poly personal fouls on an ensuing drive that helped get them into field goal range for a 36-yarder by Jayden Icasiano that cut the lead in half. A bad snap on Poly’s next drive was pounced on by Millikan’s Ethaniah Steffany, which gave them the ball at Poly’s 17. MJ Rivas had back-to-back sacks to stop them from advancing, but Icanasio easily drilled a 27-yarder to tie the game. 

Poly had two drives after that, both of which got inside the Millikan 30, but neither drive yielded any points, as they turned it over on downs on the first drive, then held Millikan to three-and-out, and simply ran out of time on the final drive. Curry moved Poly from their own 24 with 1:46 left to the Millikan 26 with 25 seconds left, where they got multiple shots into the end zone. One, to Clinton, would have won the game had it been just a few inches more inbounds, as Clinton bent his body to haul the pass in, but brought his foot down just outside the boundary.

That set up overtime, with Poly winning the toss and saying they wanted Millikan to take them ball first. Longtime Long Beach football fans recall that Poly’s last overtime game in league was also against the Rams, in a Millikan win in 2009 in double overtime.

The Rams had three incompletions to start their overtime possession, as Quimari Shemwell played great defense on star Rams receiver Ryan Pellum on shots into the end zone. Icasiano casually nailed a 42-yard field goal to the Rams up 26-23, and push Poly to where they needed a touchdown, as the Jackrabbits didn’t have a field goal kicker available. 

Curry hit Orozco for a one-yard gain, then Cason ran for four yards to set up third and five. Curry scrambled for nine yards on the next play to get the ball to the Millikan 11. After that, they handed off to Cason, who pushed forward with several Rams hanging off of him to land in the end zone for the game-winning score.

That set off an emotional celebration, with Cason clearly feeling it.

“I was just thinking about my dad in that moment, I just got a tattoo for him,” said Cason. “His name was Justin Cason, everyone knew him in Long Beach–that was for him.”

Millikan coach Romeo Pellum loved his team’s effort and fight.

“Our kids did a phenomenal job, we were in the game at the end, we just came up short,” he said. “Our kids played their hearts out today, and they did a phenomenal job.”

Barbee praised his team’s defense and Shemwell in particular.

“I feel he’s the best defensive back around, he had a great interception on a 50/50 ball tonight and he had a really nice game guarding Pellum, he did the same against another top recruit for Mission Viejo,” he said.

Curry finished 26/40 for 284 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, while Mialovski went 14/30 for 189 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

The Jackrabbits (5-1, 2-0) will host Wilson next week while Millikan (4-3, 2-1) will host Lakewood as it’s rivalry week in the Moore League.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Millikan, Football
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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.