The night began with frustration for the Long Beach Poly football team, and it ended with glory. The Jackrabbits were late to their own CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoff game thanks to a mixup with buses, and then for the first of their opener against Orange Lutheran, it looked like the Poly offense missed the bus completely.
But that consternation gave way to jubilation thanks to the late-game heroics of senior quarterback Mehki Jordan, who had a game-tying tw0-point conversion to send the game to overtime, and the game-winning touchdown to give Poly a 27-24 OT win over the Lancers.
The Jackrabbits will travel to face Rancho Cucamonga in the quarterfinals next week.
“This means a lot,” said Jordan. “This says a lot about who we are. We have each other’s backs, that’s all we’ve been saying all day. No matter what happens we have each others’ backs.”
Jordan put his team on his back when they needed him to. The three offensive touchdowns by Poly came with 33 seconds left in the half, 41 seconds left in regulation, and in overtime. Jordan finished with 262 total yards of offense and two touchdowns.
“Nobody gave us a shot in this game except you guys and the kids in our locker room,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We’ve been hearing Trinity League this and Trinity League that. This is a big win for our program to show that we play pretty good football over here, too.”
The game started out terribly for Poly, as the Jackrabbits’ offense struggled to get into a rhythm, and O Lu got a pair of touchdowns from running back Cooper Vander Hill, including a 77-yarder that made it 14-0 Lancers with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
The Jackrabbits didn’t panic, and senior Amajay Gravelly provided the spark they needed, intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown to put Poly on the board midway through the second quarter. Poly’s offense still wasn’t getting it going, but the Jackrabbits defense stepped up big again on a first and goal for O Lu, stopping them three times, including a sack by Aupiu Moe. O Lu ended up missing the field goal and giving Poly the ball back with 1:33 left till halftime.
Jordan led Poly quickly down the field, and ran a touchdown in himself. The extra point was blocked, leaving Poly behind 14-13 at halftime.
In the second half the story looked the same, with Poly’s defense doing a good job hanging onto the Lancers, but the Poly offense struggling. Finally, O Lu scored on another run by Vander Hill to go up 21-13 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
Poly’s offense kept stalling, until they finally got the ball with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game, and no timeouts in the holster. Jordan found Kyren Rachel, then on fourth and five, he hit Anthony Curtis for a big gain. Jordan had another good run to get Poly to the two yard line, where Moe took it in to put Poly down 21-19. On the two-point conversion, Jordan kept it himself and leapt forward, diving into the end zone as a defender hung on desperately to his ankles.
Jordan’s diving score tied the game, and sent it to overtime, where O Lu had the first crack at it.
Once again the Poly defense held the Lancers, and O Lu settled for a field goal. After a defensive holding penalty put Poly on the 10, Jordan saw some room and ran in the game-winning touchdown, bringing his teammates sprinting onto the field in celebration and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
“They couldn’t run with our receivers so I knew they’d be dropping into coverage,” said Jordan. “They only had one linebacker looking at me, and I knew I could beat him, so I did.”
Bryun Parham led the strong Poly defensive effort with 12.5 tackles, including two for a loss. Moe had the touchdown run as well as a sack and four tackles for a loss.
The Lancers had 110 penalty yards to Poly’s 70, but outgained the Jackrabbit 337 yards to 288. Poly held the Lancers to 108 yards passing in the victory.