Long Beach Poly (4-3, 2-0) takes the field tonight against Compton (2-4, 1-2) hoping to begin the stretch run to the CIF-SS playoffs with a crisp effort that proves they’re ready for the postseason. The Jackrabbits played their most complete game of the year last week against Aquinas, with strong effort on offense, defense, and special teams, and a few hundred fewer yards in penalties than they’d had against Millikan and Wilson in their two previous games.
Poly did have a lapse of about six minutes where they gave up two touchdowns to the Falcons, in the middle of an otherwise completely dominant game (their defense gave up less than ten yards in the second half). Those lapses can prove fatal in the playoffs, and tonight Poly sees if they’ve improved their focus against the Moore League’s annual “focus test” in Compton.
“Their double wing offense is its own animal to be honest,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We have to switch our defense around and we have to be focused. I like this game because it forces us to pay attention to detail, to assignments and alignments on every play. We could run into a double swing team in the playoffs we could run in into any kind of offense–so this is a good test on maintaining that discipline. Everyone in the playoffs is good and we need to know how to understand what they’re running, learn it, execute our gameplan and win.”
The Jackrabbits roster has continued to take shape, and the addition of Los Alamitos transfer Nick Kelly for tonight’s game puts them at most likely the roster they’re likely to have for the playoffs, save a few banged up players they’re hoping to get back. QB Shea Kuykendall has upped his completion percentage and eliminated risky throws, and developed a real rapport with speedster USC commit Jason Robinson as well as 6-5 possession receiver Tyson Bordeaux, who had a highlight-reel catch over top of a defender at Aquinas.
Kelly is likely to feature at both slot receiver and as a speed back option for Poly’s rushing attack, which they’ve been missing this year. Workhorse RB Devin Samples is back from injury this week and is a few hundred yards away from eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Poly’s line is also solidifying and the return of Tyson Ruffins has bolstered the run game.
Defensively, Poly’s front is going to get a chance to star tonight, after putting in a great game against Aquinas. Expect to see a variety of Donovan Poe, WoWo Moe, Tyson Ruffins, Phoenix Tusa, Jeremiah Fort, and Dominic Lolesio on the line, as the Jackrabbits have depth to platoon against the double wing. Linebackers Jalen Johnson, Ike Mikaele, Noodles Cason, and Dylan Williams will all see time as well. Poly’s DBs aren’t likely to see a lot of balls thrown their way, and tonight will be a good focus test for them as well–do they give up a big play through the air if the defense runs, runs, runs, runs, runs, and then goes up top.
For Compton, tonight will be a challenging game–it’s been decades since the Babes beat Poly, and they’re off to a rough start that’s been plagued by injuries. The good news, according to head coach Calvin Bryant, is that Compton is healthier than they’ve been in weeks. They’ll need big games from Deon Johnson and Erick Barrios to pull off the upset.
We’ll have live updates from the game.