It’s four weeks into the season and Moore League play is getting started this Friday. The standings look a little topsy-turvy, with Compton undefeated, Jordan at 3-1, and Millikan the highest-ranked team in CIF for Long Beach. We take a look at the midseason report cards for all the local teams.
Long Beach Poly: B
The Jackrabbits have taken a few steps forward and a few steps backwards under first-year head coach Stephen Barbee. They own the best nonleague win of any team in the city with a surprising 26-3 victory over Narbonne, and their defense has been stellar. Poly’s D has scored six touchdowns, sacked the quarterback 10 times, and recorded 33 tackles for a loss, with 15 takeaways. But Poly’s offense scored just one touchdown against the Gauchos and in a bad loss to Los Al. There were signs of improvement against Serra, but Poly will need strong performances against stingy Moore League defenses like Millikan, Wilson and Compton to ease any of the Jackrabbits’ fans’ minds.
Poly opens league play this week against Millikan before visiting Wilson next week, opening up against the other two playoff teams from last season.
After three very different games against equal opponents, the Rams (2-1) are where they want to be headed into the game against Poly at Veterans Memorial Stadium. They have shown flashes of being a dominant defense, and have struggled to find consistency on offense because of injuries, but they’ve found ways to win.
Millikan, which is ranked No. 4 in CIF-SS Division 7, has been without the full services of senior receiver Malik Bradford (hamstring) and senior running back Qu’Juan Campbell (shoulder). That has put extra pressure on junior quarterback Qeanu Campbell-Caldwell, and he’s been a barometer for the Rams. The entire offense struggled in the season opening 7-3 win at Carson while Campbell-Caldwell put up some of the worst statistics of his short career. The dual-threat signal caller bounced back with more than 200 yards of offense and a school-record setting touchdown pass in the win at Gahr. Campbell-Caldwell had a similar line in the loss to Aquinas two weeks ago, but he also threw two late interceptions and was sacked nine times in the game.
Second-year coach Justin Utupo hopes that his team got healthy during the bye week, and they’ll get another bye before the final three games of the regular season.
Big mistakes made for big losses to start the season, and the Bruins (2-2) looked destined for a failing grade before the defense sparked a turnaround two weeks ago. Wilson made a fourth and goal stop in the 10-7 win at Huntington Beach, and then the Bruins ran past St. Anthony 52-14 last week. The Oilers were ranked in Wilson’s Division 6.
Wilson fourth-year coach Mark Ziegenhagen said the switch to a 3-4 defense has been key to the sudden improvement after giving up a combined 98 points in the first two weeks. The change has made the defense better against the spread attack by allowing athletic linebackers like Brett Dowgiewicz and Julian Valencia to play on the edges.
Quarterback Ryan Pettway has also improved mightily by throwing more passes closer to the line of scrimmage. He relied on a solid screen-pass game to receivers like Zach Dolphin against St. Anthony, and said it will be key to his team’s success in league. Pettway is averaging almost 200 yards passing per game with six touchdowns and one interception. He also has a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Wilson opens league play at home against Cabrillo, and will play four of its six league games on the new field turf on campus.
Graded solely on the work that’s been turned in, the Lancers wouldn’t be headed for a passing grade: they’re the only team in the Moore League that’s headed into league play without a win, at 0-3. But that’s not really the whole story, since Lakewood also assembled the most challenging nonleague slate of any team besides Poly, and were outmatched in some of those games, something head coach Mike Christensen acknowledged before the season. The Lancers played Florida powerhouse Windermere Prep (where Ray Lewis’s son played last year), and legit CIF championship contenders Mayfair and Corona del Mar. Whether the strategy of playing above their heads will pay off for Christensen’s Lancers this league schedule remains to be seen — which is why we’ll hold off on grading Lakewood, which opens league this week on the road against 3-1 Jordan.
The Panthers (3-1) are having their best season in a decade thanks to a strong defensive leader and surprise dual-threat quarterback Anthony Scott. The junior became the Jordan signal caller because of an injury, and he’s helped the Panthers win three consecutive games for the first time since 2010. Scott has only completed 17 of his 31 pass attempts this season, but he’s also averaging 6.3 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Senior DeShon Harris leads the team with 424 yards and six touchdowns.
Jordan has only given up 14 points in the last two weeks while Scott has racked up a team-high 13 solo tackles from his defensive back position. Freshman linebacker Jeremie McGurn is second on the team with 19 total tackles. The Panthers are also winning the turnover battle with 12 take aways and only seven offensive turnovers.
“I’m very proud of my players,” said Jordan first-year coach Tim Wedlow, who took over a winless team. “They never give up.”
Jordan has a chance to beat Lakewood this week for the first time since 2008, and has the fortune of not playing Poly or Millikan until the last two weeks of the season. It’s the first four games against Compton, Wilson and Cabrillo that will decide if Jordan can get back to the playoffs for the first tine in eight years.
Just about every team in the Moore League would trade places with Compton right now. The Tarbabes are 3-0, the only undefeated team in town, and are enjoying a football resurgence with crowds coming back out to games and the pride of being a city champion. Compton is ranked in CIF for the first time in more than a decade and has already won the unofficial Hub City championship after beating town rivals Compton Centennial and Dominguez. Now they’ve got to finish in the top three in the Moore League to make the playoffs, where they have a good chance to win some games in Division 10 with their tricky offense and big slate of athletes.
Compton has one more nonleague game against Gardena before hosting Jordan and Millikan in what are sure to be league thrillers.
The Jaguars started off the season struggling in losses to Bellflower, Summit and San Pedro, coming by a combined 110-33. But head coach Mike Ulufale scheduled tough teams to help his Jaguars get ready for a tough Moore League. He also put on the schedule a contest with Compton Centennial, a more beatable team — and his squad responded. Cabrillo beat Compton Centennial 33-0 in impressive fashion last week to improve to 1-3. They showed the kind of defensive potential they’ll need if they want to make some noise in the Moore League the rest of the year.
Cabrillo opens league at Wilson and at home against Poly.
St. Anthony: C-
It’s been a rough start to the season for St. Anthony, which has had the unfortunate luck of being both inexperienced and injured. Head coach Mario Morales doesn’t have a lot of senior leadership to rely on with a team that’s built around its youth, but the Saints have shown flashes despite being 0-4 and having been outscored 153-54. St. Anthony was one missed field goal away from beating Palm Springs in a 28-26 loss, for example.
The Saints have two more home games (Gahr, Agoura) before Del Rey League play begins against Harvard-Westlake, and are hoping to get healthy before then.
The Lancers (2-0) are off to a great start to their 8-Man football season after having one of their worst seasons last year. They started with a 52-7 win at home over Desert Christian, and then went to Rolling Hills Prep where they opened Express League play with a 32-26 overtime win over a perennial playoff opponent.
Senior Jason Campos leads Avalon with 153 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Five different players have over 68 yards on the ground, and the Lancers are averaging 200 yards rushing per game. Senior Cristobal Hernandez leads the nation with 8.5 sacks.
Avalon plays four of its final seven games at home on Catalina.