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Millikan Soccer

PREVIEW: Millikan Boys’ Soccer

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

The Millikan boys’ soccer team found itself in uncharted waters last season. The Rams are one of the city’s premier high school sports dynasties, as longtime head coach Rod Petkovic had established them as a perennial league and CIF-SS championship contender. In the 41 years that the Moore League has had boys’ soccer, the Rams had won 24 league titles. But last year the Rams were on a four-year title drought, the longest in program history since 1987-1991.

The 2022-23 Rams re-established Millikan atop the Moore League ladder with a 13-4-7 season that included a league champion 8-1-3 record.

Rams coach Jeff Schofield said that even during the Rams’ brief title drought, his program’s tradition and culture were strong enough to sustain their aspirations.

“These guys are confident, they know the history,” he said. “I still get freshmen who come in and I ask them why those chose Millikan and they say because it’s the best soccer program in the city. That history is there. Those couple years were rough on everybody, they were a mess.”

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The even better news for Rams fans is that the team returns three first-team All-Moore League players in Juan Vasquez, Connor Cummings, and Aaron De Leon this year, and a pair of second-team All-Moore League athletes in Orlando Rost and Riley Cabarles.

“I like this group, this is the first group I’ve had since they were freshmen, it’s exciting to see how they’ve progressed,” said Schofield. “It’s a tight-knit group with a lot of friends. We have a deep team, one of the strengths here is so much participation.”

De Leon was the Rams’ top point-scorer as a sophomore and junior, and is back for his senior season off last year’s 13 goal, 12 assist performance. Jacob Chavez is another high-quality attacker for the Rams with great finishing skill; Chavez’s brother played for the Rams and is now an assistant coach, highlighting the kind of deep family investment Millikan has in the tradition of its program.

Vasquez was one of the league’s top midfielders last year and is back in the holding mid position this year, doing a lot of dirty work that doesn’t get as much attention as the goalscorers.

“We lost one league game last year and he was sick that game,” said Schofield of his tall, rangy midfielder. “He really controls the game for us.” 

Center back Orlando Rost and left back Connor Cummings both earned All-League honors last year and help build a really strong back line for the Rams. At the base of that defense, Schofield has a good problem for any coach: three really good senior goalkeepers.

Last year all-league selection Riley Cabarles was the team’s starter,  but the team will also see Diego Ramirez this year after he’s come back from a devastating injury that left him with multiple broken bones.

De Leon said he’s confident his team will step up to defend its title.

“Our mentality is up there, we have a good squad and we definitely have what it takes to defend the championship,” he said. “We have what it takes to win.”

With a constantly-improving Moore League, Shofield knows that his team’s depth will be key, which is a big part of why he limited his varsity roster to 26 players who he expects to play and contribute.

“Schofield is smart about it,” said De Leon. “We have a league where there’s really big games every week, sometimes more than one. So we have a good bench and (Schofield) is really smart with substitutions.”

Schofield said he’s enjoyed seeing the improvement of the league, and looks forward to the challenge of trying to win again.

“Without a doubt the quality has gotten better in the five years that I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re confident and we have our expectations to win on all three levels. That feeling is there, but they also know that it’s not going to be a walkthrough.”

Long Beach High School Boys’ Soccer Preview
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.