Long Beach Poly’s football team showed signs of major growth on Friday night in a road game against Serra, but not quite enough. An improved offense and an opportunistic defense had the Jackrabbits in the lead for the majority of the game, but they came up a few plays short in a 27-24 loss.
The frustration was evident on the faces of players and coaches after the game.
“We had some defensive alignment issues in the second half, a couple of missed blocking calls,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee, shaking his head. “We’ve got to get better. We’re moving in the right direction but we have to get better.”
The Jackrabbits will face perhaps their toughest opponent of the season next Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium as Corona Centennial comes to town.
Poly’s defense got the game going as Amajay Gravelly forced a fumble that was recovered by Justyn Brown, giving the Jackrabbit offense a short field. They quickly moved the ball to set up a Malachi Rice one-yard touchdown. Serra answered 26 seconds later as Doug Brumfield found Ronald Gilliam for a score to tie it.
Late in the first half, quarterback Shea Kuykendall hit Ramil Brown for a 67 yard touchdown that let Brown show off his track speed. Poly took a 13-7 lead into halftime and then made it 16-7 on a field goal by Carlos Rosas. One minute later, Serra answered again as Brumfield hit Lavon Bunkley for a score. The Cavaliers took the lead late in the third quarter on a run, putting them up 21-16 on Poly.
But after Bryun Parham intercepted Brumfield, Poly had action again. The Jackrabbits retook the lead on a beautiful pass from Kuykendall to Anthony Curtis that saw the sophomore quarterback step up in the pocket and deliver.
But for the third time, the Poly defense couldn’t keep Serra from answering, and the Cavs needed just two plays to retake the lead. Poly had its chances to win it, as Rice motored Poly down the field to the Serra 24 with two minutes remaining. But Serra got sacks on consecutive plays to push Poly back, and the Jackrabbits couldn’t get the first down.
Poly’s offense looked much better than the last two weeks–the Jackrabbits had only scored one offensive TD in the last two weeks. Kuykendall was 11/22 for 166 yards, two scores and two interceptions. Rice only had 50 yards on 24 carries, but was rolling in the fourth quarter after wearing down Serra’s defense.
The Poly offense out-possessed Serra 27:17 to 20:43, but came up a few plays short.
Similarly, the defense did a good job smothering a talented offense with several Division 1 prospects, but just couldn’t close the game out as Serra answered each of Poly’s big scores with quick strikes of their own.
Poly’s special teams was also much improved, with defensive tackle/punter John Jaster averaging 34 yards per punt and Rosas hitting the team’s first field goal of the year.