Long Beach Poly hosts Leuzinger tonight at 7 p.m. at Cabrillo High, in a game that was originally scheduled to be the Jackrabbits’ first of the season, but had to be moved due to COVID-19 protocols. Tonight’s game sees a Poly team at 0-2 and in search of their first win, in a very different situation than they thought they’d be at this point in the year.
The Jackrabbits have struggled with injuries and waiting for clearances for players, and have yet to establish a consistent identity offensively or defensively.
“At this point it’s a next man up situation, we’ve got to go with who we’ve got,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We do have some injured players but we can’t just sit here and feel bad about it. We have another undefeated team coming in on a short week and we have to prepare for it.”
Poly’s losses to Serra and Mission Viejo both showed the challenges of a young team with promising talent that’s not quite ready to compete with top 20 programs in the state. They’ve had sparks on both sides of the ball, holding Mission to just one touchdown offensively in the first half of last week’s game, and scoring twice in the last four minutes of the Serra game. But those efforts haven’t been sustained for an entire game.
“We have a lot to improve on, and we’re taking those steps,” said Barbee. “We aren’t worried about what people’s expectations are–we had nine kids graduate and go play college football from last year’s team, and we knew we’d have to replace those guys with young players. We have a very tough schedule, we asked for those opportunities to compete with the best. That can be eye-opening for a young team, but we’ve also seen senior leadership step up and ask more from the younger players–that’s what you want to see.”
Barbee knows his team has another tall test in undefeated Leuzinger, led by quarterback Ashley Tucker Jr, a dual threat who has eight touchdowns in two games. Poly hasn’t had much success pressuring the quarterback in their first two games, with just one sack against Serra and Mission. Containing Tucker while not allowing him time to survey the field will be challenge one for the defense.
Challenge one for the offense is finding something to hang their hat on. Poly hasn’t been effective getting into a rhythm throwing or running the ball, and has split time between quarterbacks Darius Curry (who got most of last week’s snaps) and Shea Kuykendall, as well as running backs Devin Samples and Joshua “Noodles” Cason. The Jackrabbits are hoping to exit their third game of the season with a better sense of what they can rely on.
“Ultimately we’ve got to pull together all three facets of the game and be better at everything,” said Barbee. “The coaches have talked about simplifying things, making sure everyone knows what they’re doing so they can play the physical brand of football that Poly is known for.”