Kejuan Markham
Football Long Beach Poly

Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits Football Season Preview

First-year Long Beach Poly football coach Stephen Barbee presents himself as the calm after the storm. He’s confident but soft-spoken, a stark contrast to Poly’s coach the last four years.

Antonio Pierce’s tenure brought excitement around every turn, but also heavy turmoil. From 2014-2017 the Jackrabbits brought in a number of five-star recruits, had multiple documentaries filmed about the team, and played the best teams in the country. But Poly also forfeit games for the first time in 40 years, missed the playoffs for the first time in almost 50 years, canceled the program’s JV team for the first time ever, and, perhaps worst to Poly fans: the Jackrabbits didn’t win a CIF championship.

Since Jim Barnett took over the Poly program in 1980, every coach to run the program had brought home a ring. Now, Poly’s on a title drought dating back to 2012–that may not seem like long to the fans of most schools, but it’s been almost 30 years since Poly had a five-year gap with no CIF title.

Barbee’s team will have a hard time breaking that mold, as the Jackrabbits are still in the CIF-SS’ top Division along with powerhouses like St. John Bosco and Mater Dei, both of which run themselves more like college programs than high school ones. Poly, meanwhile, has turned to Barbee to circle the wagons and figure out its place in this new football world, one where Long Beach talent sometimes willingly leaves the city to compete for rival schools.

“I think job number one for me is to reconnect with the alumni and the history of the program,” said Barbee. “This is a community like no other–I get stopped in San Diego, in Northern California, anywhere people see me wearing a Poly shirt.”

Barbee has made a lot of progress restoring old traditions. For one, the numbers in the freshman class are the highest they’ve been in years, meaning the team will have a JV program again.

After long talks with Jerry Jaso and Raul Lara (who won a combined nine CIF titles at the school from 1985 until Lara’s departure in 2013), Barbee re-decorated the film room with the photos of past Poly greats that Jaso had first hung up. He re-instituted some of the team’s chants, and has stripped away the variant helmets and uniforms that Poly accumulated as part of its adidas deal under Pierce.

“We want the kids to understand it’s about how they play and what they do on the field, so we’re going with gold helmets, we’ve got green jerseys and white jerseys, and we’ve got gold pants,” he said. “We’re going to look like Poly.”

The team filling out those jerseys will still carry some major talent, including big-time recruits Keon and Kejuan Markham, and defensive back Alex Austin, who recently committed to Oregon State. Poly’s line looks bigger and much improved from the last few seasons, and transfer sophomore quarterback CJ Montes should be a reliable dual-threat QB for the next three seasons.

“I think we’re going to have a prolific offense and a tough, fast defense,” said Barbee. “We can’t wait to see another team, we’re sick of playing against ourselves.”

The Jackrabbits have a nonleague schedule of Dorsey, Narbonne, Los Alamitos, and Serra so fans will see how they look against other SoCal powers before they jump into the league schedule.

“This program is thought of the way it is because of the alumni and the tradition,” said Barbee. “We’ve been blessed with alumni coaches and a lot of alumni have come back to talk with the kids. The enthusiasm is there.”

Projected Starting Lineup


QB: CJ Montes

RB: Jaden Wade

RB: DeAngelo Chester

WR: Keon Markham

WR: Kejuan Markham

WR: Kenyon Reed

WR/TE: Elijah Juarez

OL: Mase Suaava

OL: James Maae

OL: Joshua Ethan Manuma

OL: Ian Harper

OL: Julio Manzo

LS: Asher Luna

K: Edgar Gonzalez


DL: Chuck Taylor

DL: Bryson Parham

DL: Elijah Dolphin/Tim Gomez

DL: Julio Manzo/Isaiah Andrews

LB: Elijah Juarez

LB: Anthony Parker

LB: Daylen Fuller

LB: Casey Long/Ese Mausali

DB: Keon Markham/Kejuan Markham

DB: Alex Austin

DB: Damaje Yancey

DB: Tim WIlliams/Kam Blanton

P: Markham/Juarez

Long Beach Poly Schedule

8/17 @ Dorsey

8/24 vs. Narbonne

8/31 vs. Los Al (@ Cerritos College)

9/7 vs. Serra

9/14 vs. Millikan

9/21 @ Wilson

9/28 @ Cabrillo

10/5 vs. Compton

10/12 @ Jordan

10/19 @ Lakewood

10/26 BYE

Long Beach Poly Football Season Preview 2018

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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.