The Long Beach Poly football team always planned to get its first win of the season against Leuzinger–it just happened two weeks later than they’d hoped. The Jackrabbits and Olympians met Thursday night at Cabrillo in a game that was originally scheduled for week one, but moved to this week due to COVID-19 protocols. Poly has since lost games to Serra and Mission Viejo, while Leuzinger game into this week’s game undefeated.
A shorthanded Poly team showed impressive growth from the last two weeks in a 35-21 victory.
The major adjustment Poly made, especially since they were down a few more players due to injury, was in simplifying and streamlining their playbook.
“We’ve got to find the little things that we do very well,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “Our run game worked tonight–we simplified that. Some of our passing plays and the reads we’re making, we simplified those.”
On offense, the Jackrabbits looked sharp. Senior quarterback Shea Kuykendall got all the snaps with sophomore Darius Curry out due to injury, and had one of his best games. Kuykendall was 18/27 for 221 yards and three touchdowns. It was an impressive performance from Kuykendall, who only had one pass attempt in last week’s loss to Mission Viejo before coaches elected to play Curry.
“Shea has always conducted himself as a professional, and he came in on Monday and had a great week of practice,” said Barbee. “It showed tonight, he understood everything we were doing.”
Kuykendall said it was easy for him to focus on this week without worrying about past issues.
“I just love this team, I love my offensive line for protecting me. Coach Renee (Medina, Poly’s offensive coordinator) put together a great gameplan today.”
A big component of that gameplan was junior running back Devin Samples, who had 222 total yards and two touchdowns. The Jackrabbits struggled to settle into an offensive rhythm the last two weeks, but put up 416 total yards and five touchdowns this week.
“We focused on the simple stuff, on getting a few plays right, and that worked,” said Samples.
The Jackrabbit defense grew some teeth as well, with Donovan Poe leading a fearsome defensive front that had five sacks and another seven tackles for a loss.
“We needed this win, we all knew we were going to come out and win this one,” said Poe.
The game didn’t start well for Poly as they fell behind 7-0 on a long run from Leuzinger QB Ashley Tucker, who scored on the second play of the game. Poly answered back on the next drive after an efficient campaign from Kuykendall, who hit Mekyle Jackson for a 32 yard score.
Tucker was backed up in his own territory for a third and long, but hit Damonte Shallowhorn for a 78-yard score that put Leuzinger up 14-7 10:56 left in the half. The Jackrabbits would control the game from that point on, scoring the next four touchdowns. Kuykendall hit Jason Robinson Jr. for a 27-yard score to tie it up before halftime, then hit him again early in the third quarter to give Poly their first lead of the season.
Samples broke through for a pair of 40+ yard touchdown runs after that to put the game away.
Jackson finished with 83 yards receiving, while Robinson had 63 yards receiving and a pair of scores.
The road gets harder for the Jackrabbits, who will visit Corona Centennial next week before starting Moore League play.