When Long Beach high school football was at the height of its powers in the 1990’s it was routine for Moore League teams to use their superior speed to beat teams from outside the local area.
The Jordan Panthers looked like one of those classic Long Beach teams on Friday night when they used their speed to make history and beat Rim Of The World 46-21 at home in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 11 playoffs.
It’s the first playoff win for Jordan since 1994.
“This feels great,” Jordan senior Jeremie McGurn said. “We just knew that the alumni were coming back and we needed this one. We’ve felt all of those losing years so we had to win this one. We had to.”
Jordan running backs Jordan Washington and Damien Henderson each had two touchdown runs of 60 yards or longer in the victory that sends the Panthers (6-5) to Granite Hills for the quarterfinals next week.
“The whole school won a playoff game,” Washington said. “We didn’t win this by ourselves. They come out here for us, sit in the cold and watch us play… everybody is family here. The whole school won.”
“Everybody stepped up,” Jordan coach Tim Wedlow said. “Everybody wants to win and make history here and it showed tonight.”
Henderson set the tone on the opening kickoff when he used his speed to bring it back into Rim Of The World territory. Four plays later, Henderson took it in from two yards out for the 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Rim Of The World took advantage of a Jordan turnover to tie the game 7-7 on the last play of the first quarter, but Henderson took the first hand-off of the second quarter 67 yards for the touchdown and a lead Jordan wouldn’t relinquish.
Jordan’s defense was phenomenal for the rest of the half with McGurn leading the way. He finished with 12 tackles and three sacks. McGurn thinks the confidence his team played with on Friday night came from dedicated preparation.
“The swagger came from practice this week,” McGurn said. “We had the best week of practice all year. We just felt it was clicking. We just have to keep our energy up and make sure that everyone shows up to practice. When everybody shows up to practice we have fun. We didn’t want to go home this week.”
Washington made sure Jordan took a 27-7 lead into halftime with touchdown runs of 60 yards and 32 yards in the second quarter. On both plays the sophomore reversed field and cut back to run around the defense instead of through them.
“That’s just my instincts,” said Washington, who is one of the Moore League’s top track and field sprinters this year. “Sometimes I’ve got to hit the outside and depend on my speed or my cuts. I have faith in my line so I just put all my body and soul into this game for everyone on this field.”
Washington had the most impressive stat line of the night with six carries for 194 yards and three scores.
“He’s a special kid,” Wedlow said of Washington. “Once his motor gets going it’s hard to catch him. Sometimes he is so fast I can’t even keep my eyes on him.”
Rim Of The World running back Zach Gross was the focal point for the Fighting Scots with 186 yards rushing on 32 carries. He scored the first touchdown for the visitors, and then capped a long drive in the third quarter with a second touchdown to cut the Jordan lead to 27-14.
After Jordan was forced to punt, Washington made a great play on defense to thwart a long pass play and force a Rim Of The World punt. On the second play of the ensuing Jordan drive, Washington went down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown.
Rim Of The World quickly went three and out, and then Henderson took his next carry 78-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the ensuing Jordan drive.
Jordan junior Cameron Ferguson ended the first half with an interception, and the Panthers got a pick-six from Jon Jon Toomalatai in the fourth quarter before freshman Luis Bravo recovered a fumble late in the game.
“We’re moving past this game,” Washington said. “Our mind is focused on the next game. We can do a little celebrating but the job’s not finished. I just want to get a ring for this school.”
“We need to correct the little mistakes and keep working hard,” Wedlow said. “It’s also about conditioning. It’s going to be cold wherever we go so we have to be prepared for that weather if it rains or whatever.”
In terms of common opponents, Granite Hills lost to Rim Of The World 42-36 in the regular season finale.