Things look oddly familiar for the Millennium football team, probably more than in recent memory.
In coach Lamar Early’s third season leading the Tigers, the current senior class is the first he has groomed since they were first sniffing varsity football as sophomores.
He said the class is somewhere around 40 players who have fully adopted the culture he has aimed to establish.
“When I first got here, we had 23 sophomores that played for us, and we’ve gotten more players and they just gained more and more experience over time. I was looking for that leadership, and they’ve provided it,” Early said.
Coming off a 9-3 season in which the Tigers reached the second round of the 5A conference playoffs — the team’s best season record-wise since 2008 and first winning tally since 2013 — the group, led by its large senior class, is looking forward to defending its region title.
Senior safety Joey Rosales said another successful season is expected, led by the large class of experienced players and the culture set during Early’s years of coaching.
“His first year we went 4-6, and the year after we had a winning record and made playoffs, and we’ve just been believing in trusting the process. I think that has a lot to do with the senior class, because we’ve been so close,” Rosales said.
Another senior hoping to lead the team to victory is Jalan Early, son of coach Lamar, who said he could tell from a tough but productive training camp that this team was something special.
He has seen up close the improvements on both sides of the ball, as both the projected starting quarterback and safety alongside Rosales. It started in camp, waking up at 5 a.m. on hot mornings to focus on football all day, sweating out both their bodies’ water and any inhibitions they might have about the direction of the team.
Again because of a range of experience, led by the large group of seniors, he said the team is exceptionally balanced.
“Our speed is going to be killer, same with our strength on the line. For everything we need on the field somebody is able to do it,” he said.
While the main focus of this season will be to amass wins and compete for a spot in the postseason — either the newly-founded open division or 5A playoffs — Millennium is also playing for the future.
Coach Early noted that he has noticed some early promise from his JV players, especially the new freshman class. While the seniors are only technically around for one more season, ending at best in December competing for a title, he said they have a tremendous impact on the younger generation of Tiger players, both in their attitude and work ethic.
“I told them, ‘You have to leave something besides records.’ The young kids look up to them, and what this program looks like in the future depends on how they act now,” Early said.
From the Tigers’ season opener, an August 30 road game at Maricopa High School, to the last of the season, there is no way to know exactly how the season will unfold.
However, there are sure to be some exciting games and plenty of fun moments as an older group playing one more season with their “brothers.”
“We’ve all been waiting for this since we started varsity football,” Rosales said. “So now it’s time for all of that to come together.”