The Long Beach Poly football team has been getting better every week this season, but the Jackrabbits still hadn’t put together a complete offensive and defensive game over a full 48 minutes. The Jackrabbits picked the right time to do it as they absolutely dominated their CIF Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinal on the road against Upland, which Poly won 49-3.
The Jackrabbits outgained Upland 437 yards to 65 and scored a pair of touchdowns on defense, putting up five offensive touchdowns despite a running clock in the fourth quarter.
“We were clicking on all cylinders tonight,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “There’s still some stuff that we need to work on–third down conversions, a couple miscues on special teams. We’ve got to keep ratcheting things up and tightening things–but overall I loved the competitive nature of the whole team. It was great to see them execute what we’ve been practicing all week.”
The Jackrabbits were all over the game and perfectly executed the gameplan. As an example–Poly coaches had noticed in film that defensive backs for Upland played way off of opponents’ slot receivers. Given that the Jackrabbits have a legit speedster in the slot with Nick Kelly, the plan was to feed him the ball until the Scots’ defense adjusted. The result was 10 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns for Kelly.
“The pressure doesn’t get to me, I was just excited to come out and play my game,” said Kelly.
Barbee said he was happy to see all the film work from his staff result in production on the field.
“Our coaches work tirelessly on offense and defense to figure out the right gameplan to put these kids in the position to be successful,” said Barbee. “We knew they were going to play off there and a five-yard pass to Nick Kelly is just as good as a five-yard run.”
The offense wouldn’t have run smoothly without QB Shea Kuykendall continuing his excellent senior season. Kuykendall was 24/32 for 362 yards and five touchdowns. In addition to the two scores to Kelly, he also threw a pair of touchdowns to Tyson Bordeaux, and another to USC commit Jason Robinson.
Kuykendall is 43/56 (76%) for 698 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions in two games of the playoffs so far.
The Jackrabbits defense was just as dominant, holding run-happy Upland to 46 rushing yards, and only three first downs by the Scots’ offense. Upland’s passing game was 2/16 for 19 yards, and the Jackrabbits returned two interceptions for touchdowns. The first was by Jeremiah Fort, who made a sensational play to swipe a shovel pass and then run it back for a score. The second was by Donovan Turner, and came at the end of the game as a cherry on top of the blowout sundae.
Turner said that seeing safety Timmy Tuiagamoa out in front laying a big block let him know it was time to score.
“I saw Timmy hit that guy and I’m like, ‘I’m going home, I gotta go home,’” he said.
Turner said that the Jackrabbits’ intensity has stepped up for the playoffs.
“Our coaches have made it a point to make us understand that this could possibly be our last game, and we knew we had to make a statement on the road,” said Turner. “Coach drilled it into us to get it done early, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
The scoring started early as the Jackrabbits went up 7-0 on a Kuykendall to Bordeaux connection in the first, then went up 14-0 on a pass to Jason Robinson on third and goal. As the defense continued to stuff the Scots, the offense continued to score. Poly’s next drive saw them face fourth and seven, but Kuykendall found Kelly for a 31-yard score. Three plays later, Fort ran back his interception for a touchdown and it was 28-0 Poly halfway through the second quarter. Upland would kick a field goal late in the half for their only points of the game, but Poly took over with 48 seconds in the half and quickly engineered a score on a trick play: it was a shovel pass, to a reverse pitch, to a flea flicker back to Kuykendall, who then threw the screen to Kelly, who had blockers in front of him and sprinted to a 61 yard touchdown to make it 35-3 at the break.
Poly added scores on Bordeaux’s second touchdown catch and Turner’s pick-six in the second half, with the clock running all fourth quarter.
Bordeaux had another strong game with nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson had two catches for 50 yards and the score. Devin Samples ran it 15 times for 82 yards. The Jackrabbits got a boost in the secondary from transfer Kylen Allen, who made his debut and had two pass breakups and four tackles.
The Jackrabbits will host the winner of Bonita/Cypress (they play Saturday) at Veterans Memorial Stadium next Friday for a CIF-SS semifinal game.