Millikan boys' soccer rolls a seven

DOWNEY -- No team had ever scored seven goals in a CIF-Southern Section soccer championship game, boys or girls. Millikan High School didn't expect to be the first.

But the Rams poured it on, netting five in the first half en route to a stunning 7-2 romp over unbeaten Ventura in the Division 1 boys final Saturday night at Warren High School.

Connor Johnson and Jordy Silva scored two apiece as the Rams (26-2-4) used superior speed, skill and finishing to take command midway through the first half, then pull away in a performance nobody thought they'd see, not even Millikan coach Rod Petkovic.

“Unexpected. Definitely unexpected,” said Petkovic, who notched his 600th win in 30 years at the Long Beach school. “We talked in September, as part of motivation to get the kids to believe, and they believed. As young as we were, we didn't think we'd be quite ready yet, but they were ready. Boy, were they ready.

“Just to be here is great. Just to be here is a fun thing. But to win like this? Woo!”

It's the third Southern Section title the second-seeded Rams have won under Petkovic, to go along with a 3-A co-championship in 1992 and a Division I crown in 2001. They lost in the Division I final two years ago to El Toro, from Lake Forest.

Ventura (23-1-7) possessed strengths similar to Millikan's, with good skill and propensity to play on the ground, with one-touch passing, possession and a buildup into attack. They answered Johnson's fifth-minute opener -- he quickly knocked home the rebound after Cougars goalkeeper Eric Kam dived to save William Lane's header -- within a minute thanks to Joe Hernandez's stunning, bending bullet that flared out of Millikan keeper Steven Barrera's reach and into the far-post side netting.

That was it for Ventura.

Johnson scored his second in the 14th minute, Jaime Salazar made it 3-1 in the 24th, Silva got the fourth in the 30th, and Luis Ortega netted the fifth just before halftime.

“I saw film of them,” Petkovic said, “and I told the kids, 'They're very solid every position. But we're better. We're faster, we're more skillful, and it's going to show today,' and the kids played really well.”

Silva scored again in the 71st minute, and after Spencer Kozic pulled one back for Ventura two minutes later, freshman Rey Angulo scored the seventh. That broke the record set by Salesian, from Los Angeles, which netted a half-dozen to win the Division V title in 2007.

“To jump all over them like that? Wow,” Petkovic said. “I did not expect seven goals. Nobody ever envisions that. I thought we might score three. I thought we might have a good three goals in us for today's game, and I thought they might have two. So unexpected to score seven, but we'll take it.”

Said Ventura coach Todd Tackett: “Right now, it just stings. To lose, 7-2 … that was a great team. They came out on fire, they touch the ball real well. They jumped on us quick. … In [Millikan's] offensive third, defensively we just were not marking up, and the one-two touches, we weren't following the runners, and they were able to put it in the back of the net. So I think there's a couple guys out there who wish they could have that game back. I don't think they brought their 'A' game.”

Ventura returns nine substantial contributors next season.

Millikan, which will return 16 players next year, moves on to the CIF Southern California Regional Championships, which also include schools from the Los Angeles City, San Diego and Central sections, and winning is the goal. But it's secondary.

“It's a reward,” Petkovic said. “Let's see what we can do. I just told them we're not finished yet, let's see what happens, but it's a reward for us. This [section title] is what we were shooting for. All the time, we were preparing for this.”