There was a moment after the Long Beach Poly football team’s season-opening overtime win over Serra where Jackrabbits coach Stephen Barbee was overcome with emotion, and needed a second before he could answer a question.
“These kids inspire me,” he said. “They put in work every day, they didn’t take days off, even when stuff is happening at their house that would honestly put most people to their knees. They’re showing up at practice that same day saying, ‘Coach, I need to work, I need to be here with my brothers.’”
His Poly team put up a perfect season on the field, going 4-0 with wins over Serra, Lakewood, Compton and Millikan. In the Moore League they went 3-0 and outscored opponents 134-0. But while boxscore dominance is nothing new for the Jackrabbits, the final score didn’t tell the full story.
The Poly team that took the field featured several starters who had lost fathers, mothers, grandparents, or friends in the weeks before the season started. The Jackrabbits swept the Moore League’s superlative awards at the end of the season, and many of the players honored there are the specific players who’d been through the most before the season. Two of them, Moore League Player of the Year Bryun Parham and Offensive Player of the Year Keyonta Lanier, had also already signed college scholarships.
Even though their next steps were secured, they chose to come back and play their senior seasons for their school and with their teammates, something that many other Division 1-signed players around Southern California did not.
The end result of all of this is that we found ourselves at the end of the season feeling the way that Barbee did after his team’s win over Serra: inspired.