Long Beach Poly hosts Wilson tonight at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. for a game that’s steeped in history and tradition. It’s the 89th incarnation of the Big Game, the city’s oldest rivalry which dates back to 1932. It’s also Poly’s homecoming, which is the oldest sports tradition in Long Beach, as the school celebrates its 126th year.
“I don’t think a lot of the guys on the team realize how far this goes back, but we’ll talk more about it this week obviously,” said Wilson coach Scott Meyer, who grew up in the Wilson football tradition and whose sons are fourth-generation Bruin football players. “I think at this point everyone has heard about it or seen the great crowds.”
Poly coach Stephen Barbee is bringing a Jackrabbits team that has not lost this game since 1991, and is confident coming in.
“It’s a crosstown rivalry, that’s not lost on us,” he said. “Our kids went to junior high and elementary school together, and they love this game. Coach Meyer does a great job, he’ll have his team ready to play.”
The game features two teams at very different points in their journey on the season.
Long Beach Poly
The Jackrabbits (2-3, 1-0) are finally going to get their first look at something close to their entire roster tonight. They’ll have six starters available that weren’t on the field the last few weeks, either due to injury or CIF-SS availability.
“It’s exciting,” said Barbee. “I see what we have in practice every day, and there’s a real excitement as these kids finally get their opportunity to all play together. Everyone’s hungry.”
Poly’s leading tackler, Ike Mikaele, has been out the last few weeks, but the linebacker returns today, as does stud lineman Tyson Ruffins, who missed last week with an injury. Poly’s defensive backfield is healthy and playing together this week and is aided by the debut of Timmy Tuiagamoa, who will likely see time at safety and running back.
Tuiagamoa was a CIF-SS sit-out period, as is 6’4” defensive end Dominic Lolesio, a transfer from Mayfair, who gets his first game for Poly today. Lakewood transfer Marcell Lineberger is also eligible today and expected to play. The Jackrabbits are going to be without QB Darius Curry and lineman Nathan Samoa, both of whom were injured in the game against Millikan.
There was a sharpness at Poly’s practices this week that may signal a change in this team, which has struggled to put a complete game together this season. Their 230 yards in penalties against Millikan last week was eye-opening, and the team spent the week under the tutelage of longtime Poly discipline coach Tyae Burford, who put the Jackrabbits through quite a bit of running and extra conditioning.
The Jackrabbits are hoping to come out sharp and hungry against Wilson with a full roster, and to show everyone how good they can be for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
The Bruins (1-4, 1-1) on the other hand, are dealing with the number of injuries and issues that Poly was a few weeks ago.
“We’re banged up, but it’s a rivalry game so we’re excited to go give it our best shot,” said Meyer.
The Bruins have eight starters out tonight, including a few two-way players. They’re hoping for big games offensively from QB Xander McLaurin and Johnell Gray, who returns this week.
Wilson scored at will against Cabrillo last week and only got to run 23 plays of offense, so they’re hoping to continue to develop some continuity tonight.