The Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits are headed in the right direction under fourth-year coach Eric Leon. They followed a losing season with two consecutive postseason berths, and understand that it takes more than one path to reach their goals.
“Being able to adjust tactically is something we worked hard at during the offseason,” Leon said. “Trying to get this group to fire on all cylinders is going to be my objective because once we do, we’re going to be a fun team to watch and a tough team to beat. I’m looking forward to being a top contender in Division 2 and in league.”
Senior Julian Pearce and junior Ethan Shnack are team captains who have seen the recent growth of the program through diversity.
“We all have different ways to play and we respect that,” Pearce said. “Defensively we have tenacity, in the midfield we’re technical and calm with the ball, and our forwards are relentless. I just like how we’re shaped for this season with our personalities on the field.”
Leon said junior Kenny Barnabee and freshman Ernesto Delgadillo are two newcomers who will likely start and will be needed depth in the midfield and on the back line.
Last year, the Jackrabbits won their first postseason game since 2015. Pearce said the victory is important for the program, but that the margin for error in league will decide his teams fate.
“I’ve learned that we need to be more focused in the final third and close out games,” Pearce said. “We had several results last year where we just needed five more minutes to end the game with two more points.”
“This senior class has been with me now since my first day I took the job at Poly,” Leon said. “It’s my deepest and strongest senior class to date and we’re eager to get started. I hope that those (playoff games) can now serve as motivation for this senior class to make a deep run.”
Leon also said he’s looking forward to the Dec. 23 nonleague game at Paramount where he will, “see where we’re at as a program.”