Football Millikan

PREVIEW: Millikan at Villa Park, CIF Football

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.

The Millikan Football program will take another step forward on Friday night in Orange County, as the Rams continue their ascension through CIF-SS playoff divisions. The Rams are now a Division 3 program, up from D4 a season ago and Division 6 the year prior.

Romeo Pellum’s team started on the road in both of those postseason appearances, so Friday’s visit to Fred Kelly Stadium in Orange will be familiar territory.

Millikan (7-3) will be facing the Villa Park Spartans, who are 9-1 on the year and tri-champions of the Crestview League. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Pellum respects Villa Park’s size up front and their ability to run the ball. The Spartans have gained nearly as many yards on the ground as through the air this season, averaging 173 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per rushing attempt. Senior Carter Christie leads the way with 968 yards and 13 TDs on the ground, averaging almost 10 yards per carry.

“That’s what they’re going to try to do is try to win up front and control the game,” Pellum said. “Run the ball and slow the game down for us.”

In years past, stopping the run has been an area of concern for the Rams, but this year’s defensive front is much improved and the results have shown. The defensive line is experienced with seniors Greg McClendon (a San Jose State commit) and Ethaniah Steffany, along with big junior Terrell Dolberry. 

“We’ve got a lot of pride in what we do, and I feel like we have a type of chemistry that no one really has as a team,” said Steffany, a four year starter on the D-Line. “I believe that that specific position (D-Line) is like the stronghold for the whole defense. I believe that me, Greg, and T will get the work done and we’re pretty confident in what we need to do.”

The linebacking corps will help set the edge and limit any big runs, with reliable seniors Riley Tuggle and Matt Robinson needing to fly around and make plays.

“Going into the playoffs I’m very confident in my team,” said McClendon. “I feel like we’ve got the potential, and definitely have the talent to be able to compete with those top guys … This is what counts, it’s win or go home. And being a senior, I’m gonna give it my all, and I just need all my brothers to give it their all and we’ll go far.”

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Looking at common opponents, the Rams lost 28-16 to Upland back in week 4, the same team Villa Park beat 35-23 the week prior. But a lot has changed since early September, and the Rams aren’t worried about those results.

“I think we were still becoming a team in the preseason,” Pellum said. “I think now we’re a team and they know the expectation and they hold each other accountable. When the kids are policing themselves and holding each other accountable and the coaches don’t have to, that’s a good thing. I think that’s where we are right now. You can’t mess up on our team because the kids are going to be on your ass. That’s just them, they want to win.”

Millikan also has the benefit of having the best player on the field, with All-American and USC commit Ryan Pellum lining up at wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner. He’s a game-breaking talent that will put major stress on a susceptible Spartans secondary.

Junior QB JP Mialovski has steadily improved throughout the season as he gets comfortable in the offense, and if Pellum draws too much attention, recent Fresno State commit Loyall Mouzon will be a matchup nightmare on the other side of the field. Add in Charlie Broughton and Jude Nelson, plus running backs Xavier Jones and Kyle Parker, and you’ve got the formula for an offensive explosion from the Rams–if they can get the ball in their hands often enough.

Villa Park has done a terrific job limiting turnovers this season, with just three interceptions thrown and one lost fumble according to their MaxPreps page. Junior QB Nate Lewis has 21 TDs and just 2 INTs, throwing for nearly 1,600 yards on the campaign. Senior Spencer Jarrell is his favorite target with 23 grabs for 549 yards and 6 TDs.

Coach Pellum said this matchup reminds him of their St. Francis game during the non-league schedule, when the Rams went on the road to grind out a 17-10 victory over the Golden Knights, who are also in this Division 3 bracket.

Millikan is guaranteed to be at home in the quarterfinals if they win on Friday, but it’s one game at a time in the playoffs. These Rams are confident and eager to prove they belong in a higher division, and that starts on Friday night.

“The standard is really high, and they’re sticking to it,” said Coach Pellum of his team. “So I feel good. If we are able to line up correctly and execute, I think we’re in good shape.”

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.