Column Football Long Beach Poly

COLUMN: So Far, So Good For Long Beach Poly And Barbee

First-year Long Beach Poly football coach Stephen Barbee is aware that his legacy was not determined on Friday night in the Jackrabbits’ 37-8 season-opening win over Dorsey, an overmatched LA City Section team.

Nonetheless, it’s better to start off 1-0 than 0-1, especially when factoring in Poly’s notoriously judgmental fan base. Barbee was dressed sharply for his debut, with a white dress shirt, a gold tie, and a green sweater, but his team looked even sharper.

Despite not having any film of their opening-week opponent (Dorsey’s scrimmage the week prior was canceled), Poly was well-coached to the Dons’ strengths and weaknesses.

Jackrabbit fans noted happily after the game that their team had zero delay of game penalties and zero sideline warnings, but the organization showed in more dramatic ways as well.

Poly’s defense was so strong that they kept the Dons from crossing midfield until the third quarter, when it only happened because of back-to-back personal fouls on the Jackrabbits, a rare blot on an otherwise impressive opener.

Poly gave up zero passing yards and had six sacks, with one interception going back for a touchdown, and two other takeaways on forced fumbles.

Offensively, they were equally efficient running the ball and passing it, with an offensive line that was organized and aggressive. Playmakers like Keon Markham and Alex Austin shone in the intermediate-route heavy offense, with Markham making the game’s biggest play on a 38-yard touchdown catch. QB CJ Montes is just a sophomore, but it’s easy to see why he already has scholarship offers–he was crisp and made great decisions, starting 11/13 for 158 yards and two touchdowns.

Special teams was just as good, with a kickoff return for a touchdown by Markham opening the second half.

There were major differences between Barbee’s sideline and that of the last few years. There was a clearer sense of hierarchy between the head coach, coordinators, and assistant coaches that meant more calm and less chaos in between plays, and easier opportunities for instruction. Barbee also went to his bench very quickly, subbing in all defensive backups when the game wasn’t yet midway through the third quarter.

That meant the Dons were able to move the ball more effectively and eventually able to score a touchdown, which they had no hope of doing against Poly’s starters. But it also means that if the Jackrabbits need a sub due to injury, that sub will have a quarter and a half of varsity experience. That philosophy–especially when Poly gets into the league schedule–should help them re-develop the depth that was long the hallmark of the Jackrabbits.

All of that said, all the team has done so far was beat a team they were supposed to beat. This week at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. will provide a genuine test for Poly and Barbee as the Jackrabbits host Narbonne. The Gauchos are ranked No. 7 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and will be raring to go after getting beaten soundly in Hawaii last week.


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.