There are two Long Beach-based club teams competing in club football leagues right now, and both of them won their most recent games.
The Long Beach Grind are competing in the Winner Circle Athletics Champions League that’s been playing on weekends in Chino. The Grind are 3-0 and are winning with a decidedly old school approach, beating teams up defensively and grinding them down with the run game. After giving up a touchdown on the first play of their first game, they haven’t given up a score since.
“It’s not your average club football style I guess,” said coach Rene Medina with a laugh.
The Grind’s defense has scored two safeties and a touchdown while allowing just the one score in three games. They’ve also sacked the quarterback 11 times in three games, led by 7.5 sacks from defensive lineman Donovan Poe. The defensive backfield has been just as dominant as the front, and sophomore Daylen Austin has proven himself an elite playmaker already, with two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown. Austin received his first scholarship offer from San Jose State after last Saturday’s win.
After winning its first two games 9-7 and 14-0 with a superior running game led by sophomore Devin Samples, the Grind opened it up and quarterback Shea Kuykendall threw for two touchdowns in a 23-0 win last weekend.
“It’s a difficult challenge, because obviously getting kids film is a big part of why this is happening with high school football shut down,” said Medina. “But we’re also coaches–so when a team is dropping eight guys in coverage, we’re going to run the ball. But after the first two games, all our film for our receivers was them blocking, so we’re going, ‘Okay we’ve got to throw it more.’”
That resulted in some big highlights from receivers Kyren Racheal and Jordan Riles in last weekend’s game, with both seniors grabbing touchdowns.
“I’m just happy to be out here with my teammates to get a chance to play and compete,” said Racheal. “I honestly don’t care if I’m just blocking for our running backs. Getting to be out here is so important to me.”
Head coach Romeo Pellum has a lot of Long Beach talent heading to Arizona each week as part of his Black Ops team, which is competing in the MP Elite 10 in Bullhead, AZ. The team’s brightest star so far might be his little brother, freshman Ryan Pellum.
Ryan has been a standout and has earned national recruiting interest over the last month of club football, including scholarship offers from Utah, UNLV, and Arizona in the last few weeks. He had a touchdown in last week’s 20-8 victory for Black Ops.
Among the other standouts for Black Ops have been quarterback Will Madonna, and receiver Michael Bruner, who had two 30-yard touchdowns in the team’s win last weekend. A senior, Bruner has track speed and said he’s competing to try and get film to be recruited as he creeps closer and closer to graduating high school.
Black Ops has a stiff test ahead of it this weekend as they’ll face Team TOA, with sophomore standout quarterback Nico Iamaleava, who has gained a national profile while competing in Arizona the last month.