It’s been a decade since the Long Beach Poly football team has played in a CIF Southern Section championship game, but the Jackrabbits are just 48 minutes away from reaching one. Poly hosts Cypress at Veterans Memorial Stadium Friday night at 7 p.m. in a Division 4 matchup. If the Jackrabbits win they’ll travel next week to the winner of St. Francis and La Serna’s semifinal.
Poly is a historically dominant program, with more wins than any other in California history, and 19 CIF-SS titles to their name. They’ve won at least one championship in every decade since the 1980s, and are hoping to add a 2021 to that already bustling banner as their 20th championship.
None of that means that they’re taking this week’s opponent lightly, however, as much as “Cypress” might not instill as much fear as Poly’s last CIF-SS semifinal opponent eight years ago in St. John Bosco.
“We understand what’s at stake every weekend, it’s a one week season,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We’ve had that mentality for some time at this point, just focusing on this week. We talk about it every team meeting, the seniors are playing for another Saturday film session. It’s important that we realize that none of our points or anything we did the week before is coming with us. If we want to move on and advance, we need to be able to produce and execute on a weekly basis.”
The Jackrabbits have been producing and executing at a high level the last two weeks, with blowout victories over Trabuco Hills (56-28) and Upland (49-3). It’s hard to pinpoint which side of the ball has been more dominant for the Jackrabbits. Their offense has put up 105 points and has been able to run or throw at will, with quarterback Shea Kuykendall putting up monster numbers distributing the ball to Jason Robinson, Tyson Bordeaux, and Nick Kelly. Running back Devin Samples wasn’t needed as much in the Upland game which should mean he’s fresh for the semifinals.
Defensively, Poly has held their opponents down as well. They gave up just two touchdowns to the Mustangs with the starters in two weeks ago, but completely dominated the Scots last week with a pair of defensive touchdowns to boot. If they can continue to control the line of scrimmage their DBs will once again have an opportunity to go hunting for interceptions.
Cypress looks a lot like Poly’s last two opponents in terms of playcalling, but Barbee says they’re a step up.
“They’re athletic and they’re very disciplined,” he said. “They play multiple fronts and man, they have some tough runners.”
The Centurions are 10-2 on the season and, like Poly’s last two opponents, have been a run-heavy team this season, with 334 rushing attempts to 247 pass attempts on the year. Tomas Ramirez has been a bulldog for Cypress out of the backfield with 28 carries for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the quarterfinals.
Cypress has played multiple QBs this year but the bulk of the throws last week went to sophomore Elliott Lemonnier, with receiver/QB Matthew Morrell likely to get some snaps as well.
“They’re a complete team, they’re league champs, and they’re rolling right now,” said Barbee. “We’ve got to be ready for a big fight.”
The game will not be livestreamed but fans can get tickets at this link and we’ll have live updates from the field.