After two weeks of giving you our selections for the annual All-City awards, it’s apropos to end the list with the best finish we saw over the last 12 months.
The most recent Moore League boys’ soccer season was wildly unpredictable, and then it ended in spectacular and historic fashion.
Long Beach Poly, Millikan, Cabrillo, Jordan and Wilson all spent time in first or second place in the league standings. Defending champion Wilson even beat Poly twice, but finished in fifth place while the Jackrabbits won their first league title in 15 years.
Poly only needed a draw against second-place Millikan to clinch the title in the regular season finale on Feb. 6 at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The championship match was statistically even throughout, but Poly took a lead in the 32nd minute after senior Miguel Arroyo converted a penalty kick thanks to a Millikan hand ball. The Jackrabbits doubled their lead in the 46th minute when Arroyo played a ball over the top, and junior Kenny Barnabee chased it down and beat Millikan goalkeeper Matt Sutfin.
In the 77th minute, senior Edgar Hernandez put Millikan on the scoreboard with a snap shot in the box, and a 79th minute foul near midfield gave the Rams some life. Senior Caleb Sookhoor sent his free kick directly at goal, and it took a deflection before going in to make it 2-2.
Millikan junior Jesus Moreno capped the crazy finish with one last look at the game-winner in the dying seconds, but his diagonal shot across the face of goal rolled just wide as Poly held on to clinch the league crown.
“We’re trying to build our own history one day at a time,” Poly fourth-year coach Eric Leon said. “It’s great to bring this back to Poly. I hope that we can continue following the footsteps that these guys created.”
Poly went 4-10-4 overall in Leon’s first season, but has had double-digit win campaigns every year since 2016.
“We’ve definitely come a long way,” Poly senior captain Julian Pierce said. “I know this day will be sentimental for me. We’ve grown so much to get a title, but we’ve also jumped up (CIF-SS) divisions as well. That just speaks volumes for where this program is going… I really don’t have words for it, I just feel great.”