The Long Beach Poly football team adjusted on the fly this week, but there was never any doubt the Jackrabbits would land safely in a 42-0 win on Thursday night at Jordan in Moore League action.
Poly found out late last week that this game would be moved to Thursday because of the ongoing referee shortage. The Jackrabbits also came to North Long Beach without offensive coordinator Rene Medina, who had a prior engagement. Head coach Stephen Barbee took over play-calling duties and it went off without a hitch.
“It was fun and I’ve done it before so it was a little different but it just comes down to the kids executing,” Barbee said. “It’s great to see after a short week of practice how the kids responded well to execute the game plan.”
Poly quarterback Shea Kuykendall was near perfect in one half of action by completing five of his six pass attempts for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
“He was dialed in,” Barbee said of Kuykendall. “He understood where we were going to get our looks and we knew where we were going to audible and stuff… It was smooth sailing. It’s great to have him grow and show that maturity.”
Kuykendall said intense practices have helped him and his team stay sharp during league play.
“We get really competitive in practice,” Kuykendall said. “It’s just us versus us every Friday night, or Thursday night in this case, just competing with ourselves to outdo the player next to you and I think that just shows on the field.”
Poly (6-3, 4-0) scored on its first drive thanks to a 24-yard end around touchdown from Nick Kelly, and then Kuykendall capped the next three Jackrabbit drives with touchdown passes to Malik Brown and Tyson Bordeaux, who caught a pair of touchdowns of 14 and 30 yards in the second quarter.
“We’ve been working on our connection and it just clicked in the game to get it going,” Bordeaux said, specifically referencing the first TD catch on a perfectly thrown wheel route. “It was just like magic, just how it works in practice.”
“We’ve been together since freshman year and I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve thrown routes and everything,” Kuykendall said. “It’s really starting to show.”
The Poly offense got started with a string of runs from Devin Samples, and the junior picked up 55 yards on just seven carries.
“It was the game plan to run the ball early and I’m used to it,” Samples said. “The offense is really clicking.”
Defensively the Jackrabbits allowed Jordan to pick up a few first downs in the first quarter, but then locked down for the rest of the game while limiting the Panthers to 35 net yards on offense. Poly also racked up five sacks and 12 tackles for loss or no gain.
The lone turnover in the game came late in the second quarter when Poly junior Daylen Austin picked off Jordan’s Mekhi Travis deep over the middle.
“We watched film on (Jordan star Damian Henderson) all week and whenever he’s (lined up tight) he goes for the fade so I played him outside shade and bailed out,” Austin said. “When I saw the ball coming I just played it in the air.”
Austin also wowed the crowd with his speed on a 60-yard punt return that gave Poly a 28-0 lead with five minutes left until halftime.
“I saw the open lane and once I got past like two defenders it was just daylight… It’s fun on punt return,” Austin said.
“Every week he’s the best overall player on the field,” Barbee said of Austin. “And that’s on a field with some very good players. He has the potential to make game breaking plays on our return game or on defense. He has the ability to single-handedly take over a game and its great to see.”
Poly led 35-0 at halftime, and the Barbee didn’t put the starters back in the game during the running-clock second half. That allowed players like freshman Jadyn Robinson to shine. He had a 31-yard reception and a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“My philosophy is that it’s important for the starters to get the lead and everybody else to keep it,” Barbee said. “Everybody had a great week of practice and everybody deserved to play. It was good all around.”
“It’s super important to get our secondary guys in and the young guys can get a feel for varsity football,” Austin added.
Jordan (5-5, 3-3) looked spry on its opening drive as Henderson and running back Jordan Washington both picked up first downs, but that was the high water mark for the Panthers. Coach Tim Wedlow, who coached at Poly, said he was happy to see his team show up to practice all week and play the Jackrabbits without fear.
“Poly is Poly and I’ve been on that side so I know what they’re about,” Wedlow said. “One day we’ll probably get there. I want (my team) to learn by what they’ve seen… I saw some good things and some things we need to work on. We’ve got a young team and they just need to grow up. This is a good team and we can go a long way with the talent we’ve got.”
Jordan can still grab a share of third place in the league if Compton beats Lakewood on Friday. 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 .500 overall record means they’re eligible for an at-large bid in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Poly now prepares for its regular season finale next week against Lakewood at Veterans Memorial Stadium with one eye on the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s about having fun and that’s all there is to it,” Kuykendall said. “It’s a kids game at the end of the day and we’re going to try and continue to play as long as we can.”