Gateway High was expecting to beat Peters Township High one more time and head back to the WPIAL championship game for the second straight season — after beating PT in the previous title game, no less.
But Donovan McMillon and Peters Township had other ideas, knocking off the reigning champs in a hard-fought 20-19 slugfest at Gateway’s home stadium.
“I was kinda heartbroken,” Derrick Davis said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, “but it is what it is.”
“See, we haven’t (spoken about those games) yet, him and I,” McMillon said Wednesday after Davis spoke. “I don’t want to get personal, but I had to get my get back, and I got it, but I’m glad we went our separate ways and got a chance to come back and reunite and go win championships now.”
Davis and McMillon were on opposite sides of the field when Gateway battled Peters Township in high school and when LSU battled Florida in college, but the transfer portal opened the door for a potential reunion in the future.
After LSU’s 45-35 win over Florida in October, as Davis and McMillon came together on the field to exchange gloves, the conversation between the long-time friends and rivals was different than in seasons past.
“We just said, ‘You trying to team up and make some noise happen back home?'” McMillon said. “And he was interested in that, and we just talked slightly, we stayed focused at our schools and did what we were supposed to do and it was always in the back of our heads.”
In Davis’ words, when they asked each other if they’d be interested in ever returning home, McMillion said yeah. And Davis did, too.
So, when McMillon entered the transfer portal on Dec. 5 and Davis entered the portal on Dec. 12, the conversation picked up right where they left off on the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in October.
“When we both hit each other up, it was like, ‘Yo, you trying to slide?'” McMillon said. “And we made it happen.”
McMillon committed to Pitt on Dec. 15, Davis committed to Pitt on Jan. 10 and the pair finally reunited — just finally as teammates for the first time at Pitt.
While both played defensive back initially at the college level, Davis has made the switch to running back — a position in which he thrived at the high school level. It also means that in practice now, Davis and McMillon will meet head-to-head.
And while McMillon said that Davis was one of the toughest running backs he’s ever had to go against during his time playing football, he knows that he’ll lay some hits and Davis will break some runs.
But at the end of the day, it’s time for the long-time friends and rivals to be great together.
Davis will immediately join a three-headed monster with Rodney Hammond Jr. and C’Bo Flemister in the running backs room while McMillon will compete for the starting boundary safety position in the secondary. And both should be expected to make an impact in 2023.