The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The temperature was even higher than the Long Beach Poly football team’s expectations for this season, but the Jackrabbits shook it off and turned in an impressive season opener, dominating Clovis High in a road win 56-7.
Even with a 49-point differential the scoreboard was still a liar, as Poly had held the Cougars to negative offensive yardage midway through the fourth quarter, and truly dominated the game from start to finish.
Evidence of how high coach Stephen Barbee’s hopes are for this team could be found in his muted response to the lopsided win.
“We definitely have a lot to clean up, some penalty issues, ball security,” he said. “But ultimately to get out with a win where everyone got to play and we had so many people making impact plays, that’s great. I love that everyone had a part in the victory.”
For anyone who’s followed the Poly football team for any length of time, here’s the most surprising stat of the night—zero Poly players came out of the first game of the season with cramps, despite a kickoff temperature of 102 degrees. There were a handful of stoppages for Clovis players cramping but the Jackrabbits heeded the advice from their coaches about staying hydrated.
It was a crisp start to the year for the Poly offense and for junior QB Darius Curry, who was playing his first game as Poly’s starting QB and leader. Curry went 23/30 for 363 yards and four TDs. Just as impressive as the line was the way he spread the ball around to Poly’s receivers, with four different Jackrabbits scoring a TD and six gaining more than 30 yards.
“It’s not planned like that it’s because we’ve got dogs at each position,” said Curry. “They’re all gonna eat. They’re all a mismatch.”
It was an impressive performance given that most of Poly’s receivers are new to the role of playing featured wideout at the school. Returning stud and USC commit Jason Robinson Jr. had six catches for 114 yards and a 64 yard touchdown and Jadyn Robinson had 34 yards; Raiden Brown (37 yard touchdown), Jordan Malau’ulu (three catches, 34 yards) and Charles Clinton (three catches, 53 yards, TD) were all new faces.
“We have a brotherhood and we worked really hard in the Spring and Summer to make sure we’d all be ready to come out here and win together,” said Curry. He was also effective in the screen game, finding Devin Samples for four catches, 64 yards and a TD. Samples also had 41 yards rushing and a score on the ground.
The only rough spots for the offense were a lost fumble and two long touchdowns called back on penalties, which negated TD catches by Jadyn Robinson and Luke Buggs.
Samples scored on the ground and Karon Green looked great as Poly’s other featured back, scoring a pair of touchdowns as well.
Poly senior All-American Daylen Austin wasn’t happy with his game, despite having a punt return for a touchdown and an interception that was called back due to a penalty. That’s because also muffed a punt and dropped an interception in the first half.
He said that a Clovis coach smack-talking him helped him get focused.
“I was too much in my own head trying to play a perfect game,” said the LSU commit. “My team and coaches let me know they were behind me 100% at halftime which helped but when their coach was talking to me that really motivated me.”
Barbee said he didn’t appreciate hearing that an opposing coach was speaking to one of his players that way.
“I ended up saying something to the ref,” he said. “Ultimately we’re all competitive. But as a coach you want to build up all the kids—I always do that with anyone we’re playing. The kids talk enough trash, that’s not our job. When we go places we act a certain way and I’m proud of that. I can only coach my team but I think it’s important we treat kids the right way—I was happy to see Daylen return the punt. I pulled him aside earlier (after the muffed punt) and told him I’m not pulling him out of the game, I believe in him.”
Poly’s defense was beyond dominant. The Jackrabbits only ran two plays in their own territory in the first quarter and utterly stifled Clovis. When the Poly starters came out midway through the fourth quarter with the clock running, they’d held the Cougars to negative total offensive yardage. USC commit linebacker Dylan Williams set the tone early with a big hit and a tackle for a loss on the first play.
Williams, Joshua Cason, Phoenix Tusa, Dom Lolesio, Isaac Johnson, and Ike Mikaele all had tackles for a loss in the game, and Cason and Chase Stewart both had interceptions.
The lone blemish on a strong game was the one touchdown given up. It came on a bizarre drive, which saw Poly force yet another three-and-out, then muff a punt and see it recovered by Clovis. Then a series of pass interference and late hit penalties (which negated two interceptions) helped move Clovis to the five yard line, where they scored their only touchdown of the game on the only positive yardage play of the whole drive.
Now It’s Serra Week
At the end of his speech to his players postgame, Barbee told them it’s officially Serra week, getting a bigger response from his team than the 56-7 victory did. Poly and Serra have had arguably the best rivalry series in SoCal the last decade, with a string of one-score games. The contest will be televised on Bally Sports and will also be Poly’s home opener, at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.