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CIF Football: Millikan Drops Nail-Biter Against Villa Park

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.

Playoff football games often come down to one play, but Friday night’s first round meeting between Millikan and Villa Park ultimately came down to one drive.

The host Spartans ate up nearly 13 minutes of the second half, going 80 yards on 18 plays with an impressive three fourth-down conversions along the way. When the drive ended on a two-yard TD plunge by running back Dominic Ancich, Villa Park took a 28-21 lead with just 1:49 left in the game, registering the only score of the second half.

Millikan put together a nice drive the other way, reaching the Villa Park 16-yard-line with three seconds on the clock, but Millikan’s final pass of the night fell incomplete as time expired, sending the Spartans to the second round of the 2023 CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs.

“Our kids played their asses off, they did a hell of a job,” said Millikan head coach Romeo Pellum. “I put this on me. The players played a hell of a game and the coaches did a good job with halftime adjustments. Shout out to Villa Park, they did win on fourth down and the time of possession was crazy. They came out and milked the clock and we had our opportunities we just didn’t finish.”

The Rams offense had the ball for just 5:07 of the second half, while Villa Park leaned on their rushing attack. The Spartans averaged 6 yards per carry for the game, led by 138 yards and a pair of TDs for senior Carter Christie. Ancich added 89 yards rushing with a pair of TDs as well.

But that rushing attack was much more limited after halftime, as the Rams held Villa Park to just 66 yards on 20 carries. A big part of that improvement was senior center Mason Scott, who started playing both sides of the ball and was a terror on the defensive line.

“Looking back, I think we should’ve adjusted sooner in the first half,” Pellum admitted. “At halftime it’s like, our best dudes are going. We’re gonna win or lose with our best dudes, that’s it. We’re not going to leave any doubt. Mason went in and he did a hell of a job, we just came up short.”

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On the game-winning drive, the Spartans methodically worked their way down the field, converting three fourth down situations. The first came at their own 29-yard-line with a gutsy call to pick up 4th & short. Later in the drive, QB Nate Lewis kept the ball up the gut for four yards on 4th & 3 at the Millikan 47.

Then with 4th & 5 at the Millikan 26, Villa Park was originally lined up for a 43-yard field goal try. After calling a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, the offense came back on the field. Lewis faked the QB draw before slinging a quick pass over the middle to tight end Jeremiah Leftwich for a massive 21-yard gain to set up 1st & Goal. Ancich would punch it in two plays later for the decisive 28-21 lead.

The Rams put together a nice drive with the clock winding down, but ran out of time in the red zone. Junior QB JP MIalovski had a solid night, going 22/29 for 261 yards and a score.

His favorite target was senior Ryan Pellum, who hauled in 11 passes for 135 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown just over two minutes into the game. Pellum also hauled in an interception on defense in the second half. Charlie Broughton caught four passes for 77 yards, including a 46-yard pickup deep into Villa Park territory in the third quarter.

The Rams’ running game produced a number of big plays, as the Rams averaged 7.75 yards on their 16 carries. Junior Xavier Jones led the way with 68 yards on seven carries with an 11-yard TD scamper just before the half, making it a 21-21 game after 24 minutes of action.

Millikan took its largest lead of the night late in the first quarter, thanks to a four-yard TD plunge by Jayden Rapp to give them a 14-6 lead. That only lasted a few minutes as Villa Park drove down for the tying score six minutes later.

Villa Park took its first lead thanks to Christie’s second rushing touchdown of the night, scoring from 13 yards out to make it 21-14 Spartans with four minutes til the half.

Friday night was a disappointing end to a strong season for Millikan. The Rams were a play away from winning a Moore League championship this year, and reached the Top 25 in the Southern Section rankings on CalPreps.

They’ll surely have a tough time replacing such a decorated and talented senior class, but the program remains on the rise after year five of the Romeo Pellum era.

VIDEO: Millikan vs. Villa Park, CIF Football
PHOTOS: Millikan vs. Villa Park, CIF Football
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.