Three Long Beach football teams learned their playoff fate on Sunday morning with the release of the CIF Southern Section brackets. Long Beach Poly, Millikan, and Wilson all earned automatic berths into the playoffs as the first, second, and third-place finishers in the Moore League.
Moore League champion Long Beach Poly (8-2) will host Trinity League three-seed JSerra (8-2) at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
It’s a match-up of last year’s first-round game, won by the Jackrabbits 60-44. That game has almost no bearing on this year’s, of course, with a ton of new players and new coaches.
“There’s no easy road in Division 1, every football team is very good,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We’ve got to play well and execute.”
Both teams pound the rock, with Poly having 226 runs to 143 passes this year and the Lions running 307 times compared to 187 pass attempts.
Barbee and Lions coach Pat Harlow have history together, having been at Santa Margarita for a few months together under Harry Welch.
“He’s a great dude and he runs a great program,” said Barbee, who reference the Lions’ seven-point loss to top-seeded Bosco. “They obviously had a very strong preseason showing and they gave Bosco all they could handle.”
If Poly can prevail, they’ll face the winner of Oaks Christian and Chaminade in the quarterfinals.
Wilson entered the playoffs as the third-place Moore League team with an overall record of 6-4. Those two factors combined have often spelled bracket doom for Long Beach teams, with a long road trip to a top seed in the cards. This year Wilson got a very favorable draw, traveling a bit up the road to 6-4 Mira Costa.
“We got lucky on the travel, I was afraid we’d end up in Oxnard or Victorville,” said Wilson coach Mark Ziegenhagen. “I think it’s kind of a compliment to us–the teams that we lost to had a combined record of 31-8.”
Ziegenhagen admitted he knew more about the Mustangs rugby team than their football program since his son plays rugby.
“We’re in, we’re playing a team I don’t know a lot about, but we’ll be ready to go,” he said.
South Hills or Tustin awaits Wilson in the quarterfinals if they win, with a home game against undefeated top-seed South Hills looking most likely.
Millikan is packed with a talented group of seniors that have led the Rams to back-to-back playoff berths and who earned the Rams (7-2) a home game against Pacifica of Garden Grove (5-5).
“I’m excited for our program to be back in the playoffs for the second year in a row,” said Rams coach Justin Utupo. “This senior class felt like there was some unfinished business last year. Even this season I feel like we haven’t really played our best football yet.”
Utupo is particularly excited for the challenge of playing run-heavy Pacifica after an inability to stop the run last year ended their playoff run.
“I think we’re better at it this year, but it’s the playoffs and anything can happen,” said Utupo.
Millikan would face Culver City or Santa Barbara in the quarterfinals with a win.
Lakewood (3-7) was close to an at-large bid thanks to a strong strength of schedule, but the Lancers fell short on strength of league and overall win/loss record.
“We didn’t deserve it,” tweeted coach Mike Christensen on the team’s official Twitter account. “Playing tough teams doesn’t matter if you don’t win some!”