After last year's break out season, quarterback Alex Millan returns to lead the Orestimba Warriors (Samantha Schmidt).

Warrior's quest: Millan has eye on Southern League title, program records

James Burns

NEWMAN -- Orestimba quarterback Alex Millan doesn’t have many regrets from a breakout junior season.

The three-sport athlete rifled up Sac-Joaquin Section leaderboards with explosive efficiency during the 2022 season, tossing 33 touchdowns against just three interceptions. The Warriors, blessed with a deep senior class, responded, running the table in the Southern League in route to a 10-2 season.

It was Orestimba’s first league title in four years.

Offensively, Millan pulled all the right strings: He completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,004 yards and set the school record for most passing touchdowns in one game with six in a victory over Waterford.

There’s just one miss that burns.

Preparing for another explosive season, Alex Millan searches for an open teammate during Orestimba's West Side Scrimmage (Samantha Schmidt).

Millan finished one touchdown shy of tying Jacob Bettencourt’s school record for touchdown passes in a season. In 2018, Bettencourt compiled a historic season under center, amassing 2,957 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Millan came close as a junior, and that near miss propels him into his senior season. Orestimba, which opened the season with a 32-28 win over Grace Davis, continues its tour of Modesto City Schools programs on Friday at Johansen.

“Thirty-three touchdowns,” Millan said, “that wasn’t even my goal, but once I realized I had thrown 10 touchdowns before league started, I was like ‘I’m starting something here.’ I knew I had the keys guy to keep it going. Once I realized I had good chemistry (with my wide receivers), I knew I could do more and more.”

Truth is, Millan’s chase of Bettencourt started years earlier.

Like many of today’s Warriors, Millan was raised in the shadows of Warriors Stadium, hanging from the rails as coach Aaron Souza’s teams chased Southern League and section glory.

Millan’s older brother, Gabrial Millan, was a teammate of Bettencourt’s in 2017, and the younger Millan dreamed of carrying the water bottles for those teams that won three consecutive SL titles (2015-2017).

“Looking up at Jacob, I thought that man was the coolest QB ever,” Millan said.

Souza sees similarities between the two QBs. Both are among the hardest workers on their respective rosters – “first one in, last ones to leave”-type of players -- and in the huddle, their voices rise above the rest.

As a freshman in 2020, Millan mustered the courage to meet his hero. He saw Bettencourt, then in college, slinging footballs with friends at the high school. He approached Bettencourt, who offered some advice on how to handle the Warriors’ offense and the coaching staff.

Millan directs his teammates on the field during Orestimba's preseason West Side Scrimmage (Samantha Schmidt).

“The one thing about watching Jacob, he always had a plan,” Millan said Bettencourt, who also owns the school’s career marks for yards (5,127) and touchdowns (62) in two seasons. “He would see something and tell the coaches. If he did that, I can too.”

Orestimba will lean on Millan’s leadership. He’s part of a small cast of returning seniors. The Warriors return only 10 seniors, including one offensive lineman – right tackle Eduardo Baeza. To offset those changes on the offensive line, Millan spent his summer adding weight to his 6-foot-1 frame. The bulk, he hopes, will allow him to withstand a few more hits in and outside the pocket.

“It’s going to be a huge change,” said Millan, who does return two of his primary pass-catchers, Drew Felber (22 catches, 378 yards, seven TDs) and Nathan Archuleta (15-227-5). “We lost a lot of seniors from last year’s team. It’s going to be a big change on offense and defense.”

The development of Orestimba’s new-look offense might be the single greatest threat to Millan’s pursuit of Bettencourt’s records. Souza wants to be balanced and said the Warriors will feature former all-league linebacker Juan Esquivez at running back.

“He’s special,” Souza said of Esquivez.

With a bell cow in the backfield, Millan won’t be asked to shoulder the load offensively.

“I know he wants to chase the numbers, but Alex is also the most team-centric quarterback I’ve ever had,” Souza said. “I commend him for wanting to chase those numbers, but I also know that Alex really wants to win. If Alex throws seven passes in a game and we win, he’s fine with it.”