It hasn’t been a perfect year for anyone, but it was a perfect season on the field for the Long Beach Poly football team. The Jackrabbits wrapped up an undefeated Spring COVID-19 season with a 4-0 record on Friday night, defeating Millikan 48-0 to assert Poly’s Long Beach supremacy.
“With all the things that have happened to this group over the past 16 months, most people would have folded but these guys never did,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. The Jackrabbits had several players lose parents or relatives during the pandemic. “It’s a testament to the kids’ leadership and how important it was to them to bring Long Beach Poly back.”
It was a dominant night and a dominant season for the Jackrabbits, who were 3-0 in the Moore League and didn’t allow a single point, outscoring Compton, Lakewood and Millikan 134-0.
The season as a whole meant a lot to high school seniors across the city, who didn’t think they were going to get games this year for most of the school year.
“It meant so much,” said Poly senior linebacker Bryun Parham, a San Jose State signee who had four tackles for a loss and a sack in the win. “Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed of playing for Poly and of nights like this. We dominated and went out with a bang.”
Parham also said it was important to the team to finish a perfect season given that it was dedicated to longtime Poly assistant coach Keith “Slice” Thompson, who passed away during the offseason. The team broke its huddles to “Slice!” and wore stickers with his name on them on their helmets this year.
“He looked out for me since I was a little kid, he did that for a lot of people on this team,” said Parham. “He showed everyone real love, that’s why we love him.”
The game on the field was chippy in the first quarter, with a few skirmishes and a player on each team ejected in separate incidents.
“Obviously it was chippy, I like games like that,” said Millikan coach Romeo Pellum. “It was a championship, playoff type atmosphere.”
The Jackrabbits controlled the game first most of the 48 minutes, although a whopping 215 yards in Poly penalties extended several Millikan drives. Still, the Rams didn’t threaten to score while Poly moved the ball consistently. The Jackrabbits got their first touchdown on a blocked punt recovered by Jalen Johnson, then had Shea Kuykendall hit Keyonta Lanier for another touchdown. Jaden Bridge had a run for a score for Poly then Kuykendall hit Kyren Racheal to make it 28-0 at halftime. Kuykendall ran one in himself in the third quarter, followed by a one-yard score for Nasir Magee and a pick-six by Torion White to end the scoring.
Standouts for Millikan were DB/WR Tacario Davis, as the Arizona commit broke up four passes on the night, and Leo Moreno who had two tackles for a loss.
Millikan established itself as the clear top challenger to Poly this year with wins over every other Moore League team they played, and Pellum said the game Friday was a clear indicator of what his team needs to compete for a title going forward.
“We’re young, and we need to get stronger,” he said. “We need guys up front because we need to be able to compete with them up front if we want to win.”