Additional reporting by Sai Trivedi and Aidan Currie
After a 1-3 start to the season, the Long Beach Poly football team spent six weeks preparing for the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Every week they fixed up one aspect of their game or another, and every week they looked sharper. But there was no way for them to know whether they were ready or not until they took the field, and there’s no question that they’re ready after Friday night’s comfortable win over Trabuco Hills, 56-28.
Sophomore receiver Jason Robinson said that his team didn’t have any pregame playoff jitters before taking the field Friday–they were focused on leaving no doubt that they’re the best team in Division 4.
“We felt disrespected mostly,” he said. “We didn’t come out here shivering worried about the playoffs–we came out here to dominate. All week at practice, nobody was playing. We’re not playing around, we’re really on one. We want to take this whole thing.”
The Jackrabbits are seeded No. 1 in Division 4 and clearly deserved that seeding. Offensively, they scored a touchdown on every possession except for their last one of the game, with backups in. They put up eight touchdowns, with junior running back Devin Samples powering forward with 25 carries for 183 yards and four touchdowns.
“Our game plan every game is to come out and run the ball hard,” said Samples. “Trabuco was more physical than the Moore League so it gave us a better look.”
The passing attack was just as crisp, as QB Shea Kuykendall was 18/22 for 331 yards and four touchdowns. He found senior Tyson Bordeaux for six catches for 149 yards and a score, and Robinson six times for 117 yards and two scores. Nick Kelly was the recipient of the fourth touchdown, and the Jackrabbits outgained the Mustangs 562-294 yards.
“I think we just kind of feel like no one can stop us, that’s the truth,” said Kuykendall. “We have a chip on our shoulder, so I think we’re going to just keep rolling and building our confidence.”
Poly’s defense was impressive as well, mostly shutting down a Mustangs rushing attack that had been averaging over 300 yards per carry. The Jackrabbits gave up just 100 yards on the ground, and much of that came late in the game with the starters out. Poly led 56-13 early in the fourth quarter, with the Mustangs able to get two touchdowns in the last ten minutes of the game with most of Poly’s starters out.
The Jackrabbits got a fumble recovery from Malik Brown for the game’s only takeaway.
“Offensively, we were clicking on all cylinders, we’ve got to clean a few things up defensively but that’s a good first round win and we’re looking to move forward to the next week,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “Our offensive line needs a lot of credit for their run blocking, and for giving Shea a lot of time to make throws.”
Barbee said his team wasn’t too caught up in thinking about Division 4–a subject that Poly alum DeSean Jackson referenced in a postgame speech to the Jackrabbits as well.
“We’re looking to continue to play, to get another week of practice and another game,” said Barbee. “That’s been our focus and it’s still our focus.”
The Jackrabbits (8-3) will travel to Upland next week for a quarterfinal matchup.