The Long Beach Poly football team has been a tale of two units so far this season.
The Jackrabbits defense has looked stellar, with longtime Poly observers saying it’s a special group. The defense won them a big game against Narbonne despite the offense not getting into the end zone, thanks to four defensive scores. The defense also kept them in the game against Los Alamitos while the team’s offense was trying to get going.
That’s been the other tale of the Rabbits–an offense that seems still stuck in neutral three weeks into the season. This week, offense has been the priority for Poly, a team with too much talent on that side of the ball to have only gotten into the end zone one time in the last two weeks.
“Obviously we need to get a lot better on offense,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee after the team’s loss to the Griffins last week. “We’re not executing, we need better from everybody.”
The team has certainly had the usual early-season offensive issues: missed connections between quarterback and receivers, dropped passes, missed blocks. But there’s also been larger issues including some chaos in the coaches’ booth.
After Poly’s second-week win over Narbonne, offensive coordinator TJ Houshmandzadeh left the program. Barbee declined to elaborate on the situation after the Los Al game.
“I haven’t thought much about how to phrase it,” he said. “He’s not with us.”
That left quarterbacks coach Jack McInally calling plays for Poly against Los Al, and bearing the brunt of some of the blame for the team’s poor offensive output from the Jackrabbits’ notoriously abrasive fan base. The team went through five offensive coordinators in four years under previous head coach Antonio Pierce, and now with Houshmandzadeh out and McInally in, has had seven offensive coordinators in the last five years.
Because the team has had a carousel of coordinators and also relied on transfers at quarterback, it’s understandable that it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of continuity right now on the offensive side of the ball.
One thing is obvious: the offensive system Poly ran the last two weeks isn’t a great fit for their personnel. The offense relies on quick reads and short throws, but Poly has a big-armed quarterback in CJ Montes and a trio of state-level track stars in Keon and Kejuan Markham and Kenyon Reed. Despite that fact, they’ve barely stretched the field vertically, something they’ve always been known for. The team also hasn’t established a power run attack in the last two weeks, which has always been a hallmark of Poly offensive teams dating back to the 1950s.
It was the run game that Poly fell back into in 2012 when they started 1-3, then turned their season around to become CIF Southern Section Pac-5 champions–but the team had much more depth on the offensive line and a star back in Gerard Wicks that year, too.
Whether this is the week the Jackrabbits turn the corner or not is still to be seen–what is known is that a lot of people will be watching. Poly will be hosting Serra in a televised game at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m.