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Millikan Has Boxed-In Feeling

January 31, 2002

Are rival coaches in the Moore League choosing to play host to the Long Beach Millikan High boys' soccer team on smaller fields to improve their chances of ending Millikan's Southern Section-record unbeaten streak in league play?

Millikan Coach Rod Petkovic says yes, but two coaches from Lakewood say that when the Lancers played visiting Millikan to a 0-0 tie last week, it was on the same field they've played on since the late 1980s.

"I think you see what you perceive," said Mike Flynn, who began his 20th season at Lakewood in November before being sidelined in December by surgery and subsequent chemotherapy for colon cancer. "And your view can be different when you're on the top of the heap looking down."

A good-size high school soccer field is 70 yards wide and 120 yards long. But Petkovic says Millikan frequently found itself playing road games on fields measuring 50 yards in width and 110 yards in length last year, when the Rams were closing in on the previous section record of 45 consecutive games without a loss in league play.

The trend has continued this season, according to Petkovic, whose team was 20-1-2 with a 52-game unbeaten streak in league play before Wednesday's contest at Long Beach Wilson.

Rules do not require varsity games to be played on 70- by 120-yard fields. But a smaller field, especially when it comes to width, makes it easier for a team with lesser talent to defend against a team with greater skills because it lessens the speed advantage that a superior team might possess and makes it easier for the inferior team to defend the area surrounding the goal.

"There's no place to move when a team puts eight or nine guys in the box," Petkovic said.

Jon Brandts, who has coached the Lakewood varsity since Flynn's surgery on Dec. 8, said the Lancers' home field is only 50 yards wide but points out it has been that size for years because the team plays its games on the football field.

Lakewood's junior varsity field is larger and better maintained than the varsity field, according to Petkovic, but Flynn said the field has drainage problems and ruts in it.

Scott Mason, a four-year starter for defending section Division I champion Millikan, said he has noticed that the Rams tend to play on smaller fields in league games on the road, but it doesn't bother him or his teammates.

"To me, it's just respect," he said. "We're going into their house and yet they're changing things to try and compete with us."

End of the coaching line: Flynn, who started the Lakewood boys' program the same year Petkovic founded Millikan's, said doctors gave him a 30% to 40% chance of living longer than five years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

But no matter what happens, the 54-year-old native of Scotland says his coaching days are over.

"I'm not going to return to soccer again," Flynn said.

John Ortega

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