The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly for the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management
It’s hard to pin down what fifth-year Long Beach Poly football coach Stephen Barbee is happiest about. Is it the Jackrabbits being fresh off their 20th CIF-SS championship, and the buzz that comes with returning 14 starters from a title team? Is it the renewed state and national attention that’s come with that success, as Poly has been tabbed a top 15 team in the state? Is it the fact that his varsity team has 75 members and there are more than 160 in the program, more than double where that number was when he was first hired?
It’s none of those things.
“The kids have learned to put the ‘we’ before the ‘me’,” he said. “That’s the thing I’m proudest of with this program right now. They genuinely root for each other to be successful.”
Barbee is a football romantic. In his 29th year coaching high school football, he is genuinely as enthusiastic in talking about his team’s GPA (over 3.0 last year) as he is in breaking down the upcoming season. That grounded approach has led to a revitalization at 1600 Atlantic Ave, where expectations are sky-high for the upcoming season. Poly has 14 returners and 15 players currently holding a Division 1 scholarship offer, an Under Armour All-American in senior Daylen Austin and two preseason All-Americans in juniors Dylan Williams and Jason Robinson.
The only thing left for Poly is to prove itself in a higher division, after the Jackrabbits ran roughshod through Division 4 last year under the CIF-SS’ new computer-generated playoff division format. It’s clear that Barbee and his players are tired of answering questions about that divisional placement.
“You know, there’s nothing we can do to control that,” he said. “We were in Division 2 or 3 when the league season started and we won all our games, most of them very comfortably, and we ended up where we ended up. All we want to do is win the games in front of us.”
“They messed us over with the Division 4 thing,” said Austin. “We told them that, we’re better than that–there’s teams in Division 1 and 2 with worse records than us. But we won a championship, I have my ring forever.”
This year, there are some big games. Poly will open up on the road next week in Clovis before hosting Serra in a televised rivalry grudge match game in week two. They also travel to a bonafide Division 1 program in Mission Viejo week three before traveling to Leuzinger to close the nonleague schedule.
This year’s team has more depth than Barbee’s previous four teams and a great blend of proven and new talent. Defensively, it’s the best unit Barbee has had since arriving at Poly, which is saying something. The D-line will feature Arizona commit Dom Lolesio at defensive end and nose guard stalwart Phoenix Tusa. The linebackers are a physical and versatile bunch including top junior recruit Williams, a USC commit, and returning starters Ike Mikaele and Joshua Cason. In the defensive backfield, the LSU commit Austin is joined by returning safety Timmy Tuiagamoa, corner Kylen Allen, and a few talented newcomers as well, in a rare spot that Poly will feature more than one new player this season.
Offensively the team’s strength last year was a power run game mixed with precision mid-range passing. This year they’ll rely on the run again with an O-Line boasting four returning starters including highly-recruited Tyson Ruffins, who is joined by Nathan Samoa, Eneliko Ropati, Jeremiah Filipo, and newcomer Maki Stewart. The backs will again be Devin Samples and Cason, with Karon Green and sophomore Xavier Jones providing some depth.
QB Darius Curry is a perfect example of the culture that Barbee has tried to build. When highly-ranked QB Nico Iamaleava transferred in, many other QBs would have transferred out–but Curry said he cared about his team and high school and he didn’t want to leave home. When Iamaleava left for Warren, Curry was nonplussed.
“I’m here with my brothers and we’re excited for the season,” he said. Curry, a junior, is a highly-recruited signal-caller himself with offers from Pac-12 and SEC schools. He’s returning from a knee injury sustained last year, which sidelined him for the majority of the season. He didn’t spend that time moping though, he spent it charting plays and learning everything he can.
“I know the playbook like the back of my hand at this point,” he said.
He’s been laser-precision this offseason in 7on7 contests and in practice, and he’s leading the offense with confidence and poise. He’ll have some new talent to work with at wideout, where USC-committed Jason Robinson and his younger brother, sophomore Jadyn Robinson, are joined by some new faces.
Transfers Raiden Brown and Jordan Malau’ulu look to make an immediate impact, as do up-and-comers Charles Clinton, Luke Buggs, and Ezekiel Orozco.
The Jackrabbits also have their special teams down, with Dylan Michel (who only missed one kick) back as kicker and Mikaele ready to handle punting duties. Austin is also excited about being featured as the team’s punt and kick returner, and he and his coach agree that can be a real weapon for the Jackrabbits this year.
“Last year I was just going off ability, but I really worked on it in the offseason and during track season,” said Austin, who ran a 10.82 100 meter in the Spring. “If they kick it to me I’m trying to score every time.”
8/18 -- @ Clovis
8/26 -- vs. Serra
9/2 -- @ Mission Viejo
9/9 -- @ Leuzinger
9/16 -- vs. Lakewood
9/23 -- BYE
9/30 -- @ Millikan
10/7 -- @ Wilson
10/14 -- vs. Cabrillo
10/21 -- vs. Compton
10/28 -- vs. Jordan
*Home games at Veterans Memorial Stadium
QB – Darius Curry (Jr.)
RB – Devin Samples (Sr.) / Joshua Cason (Jr.) / Karon Green (Sr.) / Xavier Jones (So.)
TE – Dylan Williams (Jr.) / Dom Lolesio (Sr.)
WR – Jason Robinson (Jr.) / Jordan Malau’ulu (Jr.)
WR – Raiden Brown (Sr.) / Luke Buggs (Jr.)
WR -- Jadyn Robinson (So.) / Ezekiel Orozco (So.) / Charles Clinton (Jr.)
LT – Tyson Ruffins (Sr.)
LG – Eneliko Ropati (Sr.) / Dino Jaster (Sr.)
C -- Jeremiah Filipo (Jr.)
RG – Nathan Samoa (Sr.) / Tino Huckaby (Jr.)
RT – Maki Stewart (So.) / Bronston Larkin (Sr.)
K -- Dylan Michel (Jr.)
DE – Dom Lolesio (Sr.) / Tim Moore (Jr.) / Troy Tamasoa (Jr.)
NG – Phoenix Tusa (Sr.) / Tyson Ruffins (Sr.)
DE – Eneliko Ropati (Sr.) / Ivan Lumbi (Sr.)
LB – Dylan Williams (Jr.) / Princeton Tusa (Jr.) / Jases Jones
LB – Joshua Cason (Jr.) / Jebbediah Tu’upo
LB -- Ike Mikaele (Sr.) / Isaac Johnson (Jr.)
CB – Daylen Austin (Sr.)
CB – Chase Stewart (Jr.)
CB -- Kylen Allen (Sr.) / Hasani Scott (Jr.)
FS – Timmy Tuiagamoa (Jr.)
SS – Armani Wilkson (Sr.)
P -- Ike Mikaele (Sr.) / Dylan Michel (Sr.)