Samuel Kaplan and Jacob Pollack
The sun began to set behind the San Gabriel mountains as the students piled into Birmingham High School. Milken students sported painted faces and clutched signs in their hands. Homecoming shirts were handed out and cotton candy was served as the excitement of Milken’s first ever homecoming football game was underway.
Students, families and faculty cheered as the Lancaster Baptist Eagles kicked off. Adrenaline was rushing and hearts were beating as the football team began their first offensive series. The crowd roared instantly when Joshua Simmons ’12 ran for ten yards and picked up an immediate first down. After the first series resulted in a turnover on downs, the Wildcats found themselves back again with the football, as Simmons recovered a fumble.
With a few minutes remaining in the first quarter, Gabe Freeman ’13 scored the game’s first touchdown, turning a simple screen pass into a 51-yard breakaway touchdown, and in turn gave Milken a 6-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Charlie Heller ’12 was stellar in the first quarter, completing all but one pass.
“I felt very comfortable in the first quarter. I developed a good rhythm and my receivers and offensive line helped me out,” Heller said.
The second quarter was also nothing short of exciting, as the Wildcats pulled off some sensational plays, including a 32-yard screen pass to Freeman, a long kickoff return by Jason Welsh ’13, and two additional touchdowns scored by Simmons and Mitchell Mayer ’13.
The Wildcats took the momentum into the locker room with an interception at the one-yard line. At halftime, Milken led 20-14.
“Before the game, I felt nervous,” Mayer said. “But when I saw all of the fans supporting our team, I felt excellent. It was a big improvement for us, and we started to get rhythm in the offense.”
The third quarter was a different story however, as the Wildcats were incapable of stopping Lancaster Baptist’s fierce running attack. The Eagles ended up with 335 total rushing yards. Milken’s biggest play in the third quarter came from Welsh, who blocked an extra point attempt after a Lancaster Baptist touchdown. Although the Wildcats were outscored 19-0 in the quarter, they would make a strong fourth quarter comeback, trailing by a mere six points with five minutes remaining in the contest.
Milken’s inaugural homecoming game would go down to the wire in the final few minutes. With a touchdown needed to bring the game within reach, the Wildcat offense found themselves knocking on the door at the Eagle one-yard line. Though they drove fifty yards down the field on three quick plays, a failed quarterback sneak resulted in a turnover, and a Lancaster Baptist 79-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
When the final gun sounded, the Eagles left Birmingham High School with a 47-26 victory. The final statistic sheet reported that Morgan Daufen of Lancaster Baptist rushed for 230 yards on 22 carries, along with four touchdown runs. Even more surprising was the conservative play of the Eagle passing game, attempting just three passes.
When Milken students returned to school the following day, the final score of our first homecoming game was not the talk of the student body. It was that we made history on September 15th, 2011, as our proud Wildcats took the field and played their hearts out.
“I was proud of our team for the way we bounced back from getting killed by Faith Baptist,” Heller said.
After the game, Wildcat head coach Jerry Martin shared with us his thoughts and excitement for the night as a whole.
“I was extremely pleased with and proud of the spirit of the crowd – and the school, generally – around the event,” Martin said. “Everyone involved worked and cheered hard. It all meant a great deal to the players and the coaches. And of course I was pleased with our evident progress as a team. The kids continued to play hard and put on a great show. We are nursing some wounds, but everyone is intense about getting on with the season and getting our first win. This is a special time for Milken. The team is blessed to be part of it.”
Milken will follow up their homecoming performance by taking on Hillcrest Christian September 22 at Birmingham High School at 7:00 PM.
Featured image by Samantha Simon.
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