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.
You’d need a couple of PhDs in nutritional science to try and describe how bitter the taste was in Long Beach Poly’s mouth after their season-ending loss to Serra in last year’s CIF State playoffs. It was one of those losses that was taylor-made to stick in a team’s craw, and there’s no doubt that the Jackrabbits are hoping to put up a much different result Friday against the Cavaliers at Veterans Memorial Stadium in their home opener. The Bally Sports-televised game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased ahead of time at this link.
Poly coach Stephen Barbee said his team loves the close rivalry they’ve had with Serra lately but downplayed the two teams’ last meeting.
“We’re not playing them with a trip to the state championship on the line, but it’s a game that our kids get excited for and their kids do too,” he said.
Since the two teams picked up their on-again, off-again rivalry in 2018, they’ve played five times in the last four seasons, with Serra going 4-1, and Poly’s only victory coming in overtime in the Spring COVID-19 season. The games have been consistently thrilling and close, though, with the biggest margin of victory Poly’s six-point OT win. Serra won the other four games 21-17, 28-27, 27-24, and 29-25. In their five meetings, the total score is 126-120 Serra.
Poly (1-0) is fresh off a 56-7 drubbing of Clovis up in Central California, while Serra battled to a narrow defeat against Orange Lutheran last week. The Jackrabbits will hit the road after this week’s game and travel to Mission Viejo next Friday for their third game of the year.
Poly Offense vs Serra Defense
The Serra defense was their better unit last week against Orange Lutheran, and Poly’s offense will have to account for junior cornerback Rodrick Pleasant, who also just so happens to be the fastest high school student in America on the track. Pleasant had an easy interception last week against O Lu, and there’s no preparing for his closing speed–Poly’s offense will have to work to keep him from being a factor.
The Jackrabbits offense looked sharp against Covis, with QB Darius Curry lighting up the field as he went 23/30 for 363 yards and four touchdowns, to four different receivers. The Jackrabbits didn’t run the ball much (just 85 yards) against Clovis, and will need to get that phase going against Serra. Ultimately, Poly’s offense is where the game likely rests–they haven’t scored more than 30 points in any of their five recent games against the Cavaliers.
Poly Defense vs Serra Offense
Poly’s defense looked sharp last week as well, with the starters holding their opponent in negative yardage when they came out midway through the fourth quarter. Serra’s offense was shaky against O Lu, with neither of their two QBs getting much consistent traction. Serra’s strength is a power run game with back Cincere Rhaney–if he gets into open field or is hitting the line of scrimmage at full speed he’ll be a lot to deal with.
If Poly can stop the run their DBs could get a chance to test themselves more than they did against Clovis, where they nabbed two easy interceptions and had another pair called back on penalties.
Poly kicker Dylan Michel had three kickoff touchbacks last week and was perfect on extra points. The touchbacks are critical against Serra because of Pleasant’s game-changing speed. Poly has a top-tier returner of their own in Daylen Austin. He didn’t have his smoothest game returning last week, but he did end up fielding a punt cleanly and returning it for a touchdown. Plays like that could be huge game-changers in the normally tight Poly/Serra rivalry.