Long Beach Poly (8-2) and JSerra (8-2) will meet in a Division 1 playoff game tonight at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m., and the Jackrabbits are hoping to party like it’s…2017.
Poly won a first-round game against the Lions last year, 60-44, but the programs look very different. The Lions’ only two losses this year are to Mater Dei and St. John Bosco, the latter by only one score. They boast a bevy of talented transfers and even have two Jackrabbits on the team.
“They’re disciplined, very physical, they want to run the ball but they’ve also got very good receivers,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee.
Both teams will come out looking to establish the run, something Poly has done with ease against the Moore League. The Jackrabbits’ power rush hasn’t met much competition in the last month and a half, as they’ve averaged over 10 yards per carry in the Moore League.
But the Lions’ defense will pose a significantly tougher challenge, and Poly’s been trying to prepare for it all year.
“We’ve challenged ourselves in practice all season,” said Barbee. “This is going to be won in the trenches.”
It will also be a battle of power backs in Poly’s Elijah Juarez and JSerra’s Chris Street. Read more about how Juarez has been Poly’s not-so-secret weapon this season.
On the outsides, both teams feature multiple Division 1 receivers as Poly will split out Keon and Kejuan Markham, Alex Austin, and Kenyon Reed. JSerra has a pair of national recruits out wide in MuNir McClain (USC) and Tarik Luckett.
Barbee’s assessment that the game will come down to the trenches is likely correct. Poly’s front seven and defensive line in particular have been dominant this year, including in games against Narbonne and Serra. But the Lions come downhill on offense and Poly will need a big push from Elijah Dolphin, Bryson Parham, Chuck Taylor, and Tim Gomez.
If they can get that push, and if the offensive line can create some room for Juarez, the Jackrabbits will be in business. If not? That 2017 party will end in a hurry at Vets.
The winner of Poly/JSerra will face the winner of Oaks Christian and Chaminade.