Long Beach Poly visits Jordan for a Thursday evening game, thanks to the official shortage that has affected all of Southern California this year. The Jackrabbits (5-3, 3-0) and Panthers (5-4, 3-2) will meet for a full game for just the second time in the last four seasons. The two teams didn’t play in the Spring 2021 season, and in 2018 a lightning storm cut their game short after just a quarter and a half, with Poly leading 20-0. The two teams played in 2019 with Poly winning 52-7.
Poly coach Stephen Barbee said he’s impressed with what he’s seen looking over film of the Panthers, who are pushing for a playoff spot either as the Moore League’s third seed or as an at-large.
“They’ve got weapons all over the place, and some real speed so we’ve got to understand what they’re doing and stop it,” said Barbee.
He particularly singled out star backs Damian Henderson and speedy sophomore Jordan Washington as focal points for the Poly defense, praising Washington’s elusiveness.
“He’s a 10.6 100 guy so you can’t let him hit his stride, he’s very talented for a sophomore,” said Barbee.
The Jackrabbits have been looking stronger and stronger the last three weeks, and the return of lineman Nathan Samoa from injury should give them close to their full roster, save quarterback Darius Curry who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. The Jackrabbits have pieced things together while dealing with injuries and sit-out period transfers, and Barbee is happy to see his team getting stronger together as they round towards the postseason.
“We’re getting guys back every week, we’re honestly just focusing on improving every week,” said Barbee. “Working on our mental preparation, switching from the double wing looks to spread looks, and making sure that we’re taking care of our own improvement.”
Poly’s ability to gameplan and execute defensively seems to have reached a playoff level–they shut out Compton last week and successfully stifled a quality Aquinas running game the week before. Poly’s special teams have also gone from sketchy to a source of strength in recent weeks. The Jackrabbits are now looking to solidify the three pieces of their offense–rushing attack, possession passing in short-yardage situations, and deep balls. They’ve looked good doing all three at different times this season, but not in the same game with a fluid transition between calls–they’ll need that balance in the postseason.
It’s been more than three decades since Jordan beat Poly, but the Panthers’ playoff hopes don’t hinge on this game. They need Compton to beat Lakewood to set up a possible three-way tie between those three teams for third place, and the league’s final playoff spot. If that happens, an envelope draw would decide which of the three teams received the league’s final playoff berth.
Even if Jordan ends up in fourth place in the league, their overall record is guaranteed to be .500 or better, since they already have five wins. That would mean they’re eligible for an at-large bid in the playoffs, possibly in a low division where their talent level will give them a good chance at a win.