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 Long Beach Poly football team finished the nonleague schedule undefeated for the first time since 2008 thanks to a somewhat sluggish win over a talented Leuzinger team on the road at El Camino College. Whether it was a victory hangover from beating Mission VIejo last week, the steady rain that fell through much of the game, or the scrappy underrated Olympians squad, the Jackrabbits were a step off for most of the game, but still good enough to prevail with a 34-24 victory.
“I think we did some things very well but it wasn’t a complete game for us,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “Ultimately we need to come out and execute a complete game. They had some great athletes and they made some plays, but we have to be able to understand our gameplan and not let the emotion of the game get the better of us.”
The game was played in a heavy rain as Southern California caught the edges of the Tropical Storm Kay. Barbee and his players seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
“It was football weather I love it, I’m not gonna lie,” said Poly defensive back Daylen Austin. “I wish it was muddy too, to be honest, but it was great weather for football.”
The storm clouds didn’t just seem to be over the stadium but over the Jackrabbits in particular as Poly got off to a slow start, falling behind 3-0 early in the second quarter. The Jackrabbits have been excellent finishing offensive drives off this year but settled for an early field goal attempt that was missed on a bobbled snap. Their next drive ended as QB Darius Curry was sacked, which rarely happened over the last three weeks but happened four times in the first half against Leuzinger.
The Olympians going up 3-0 seemed to wake up the Jackrabbits, as they responded with a touchdown on their next drive. After big completions from Curry to Jason Robinson and running back Devin Samples, Curry hit Raiden Brown who dodged a tackle and then dove for the end zone. The slippery ball squirted out of his grasp before he crossed the plane, but teammate Jordan Malau’ulu was there to dive on it to put Poly up 7-3.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Jackrabbits got another drive deep into Leuzinger territory but again had to settle for a field goal try, with Dylan Michel converting this one to put Poly up 10-3 late in the first half. The Jackrabbits then got the ball back as Jebbadiah Tuupo fell on a fumbled kickoff reception. They ended up punting it away, but still scoring on a pick-six by Austin right before halftime.
“When they had two backs in on film they ran 70% of the time, when they had one back they were throwing it,” said Austin. “That play that had one in so I was back there reading it deep–their two receivers were running crossing routes so I just jumped in between and picked it off.”
It was a straight sprint for Austin to the end zone from about 40 yards out, and he said he had no doubt that he’d score it. “If you pick it you gotta six it,” he said.
It looked like Poly put the game away midway through the third quarter with a power drive that finally saw them get their running game going. Samples punched his way into the end zone from one yard out to put Poly up 24-3 with 6:22 left in the third.
But the Olympians didn’t quit. They rallied and scored on the next drive as Will Doherty had his first TD throw for Leuzinger. They scored again three minutes later as Doherty found Damonte Bias for a 26-yard score that made it 24-16 just before the fourth quarter, and had Poly assistant coaches stalking the sideline yelling at their team to wake up.
Poly did just that, scoring on a second short run from Samples on the next drive following some big conversions from Curry to Robinson. The Jackrabbits then added a second Michel field goal to make it 34-16. Leuzinger would tack on another touchdown late in the game as Doherty hit Ethan Harris for a score.
Curry had another efficient game for Poly going 27/35 for 247 yards, while Devin Samples scored two touchdowns on the ground. The Jackrabbits averaged just three yards per carry as they struggled to run for the first time this season. Robinson had 11 catches for 103 yards and Brown had four catches for 52 yards.
Defensively, Ike Mikaele had a team-high eight tackles including three for a loss. Dom Lolesio was once again dominant at defensive end with three sacks and three pass breakups. The Arizona commit has become a real threat knocking balls down and said he enjoys that part of his game.
“I’m 6-3 so I can see over the tackle,” he said. “Once that hand pulls back then I get up and try to knock it down.”
Poly also got an interception from Timmy Tuiagamoa, who continues to be a ferocious hitter in the secondary. His interception late in the game sealed the win for the Jackrabbits.
Poly (4-0) will face Lakewood at Veterans Memorial Stadium next week in their Moore League opener.