Img 2094 Copy
Football Long Beach Poly

Football Preview: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

A year after arriving back on the national scene, the Long Beach Poly football program has a chance to prove that they belong there year-in and year-out again. The Jackrabbits went 10-0 in the regular season last year and ended up ranked nationally by Maxpreps and USA Today, who both have the Jackrabbits in their top 50 again this season. Poly’s numbers are up once again, with a new weight room and a talented freshman class, as well as plenty of returning talent.

Poly coach Stephen Barbee said he doesn’t evaluate where his program is after five years by rankings, however.

“When I was hired our numbers were low, a lot of players were ineligible, the culture wasn’t where it needed to be,” he said. “We’ve come a long way. We have 160 kids in the program, we’re over 3.0 GPA the last two years, we’ve gotten 10+ kids out the last three years. It’s trending in the right direction. I was hired here, yes to coach football games and win but when you’re in charge of a program it’s about developing the whole person, it’s not just football. We’re moving in the right direction, but we aren’t where we want to be yet.”

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly Football Preview

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics is sponsored by Bryson Financial .

The Jackrabbits want to end the year with a state championship, and they’ve put together the toughest nonleague schedule they’ve had under Barbee to try and get there. They open this Friday at Konawaena in Hawaii, playing the reigning D1 state champs on the islands. Then they take a week break before traveling to Oregon to face national No. 2 Bishop Gorman on the Nike campus. They wrap up with games against Mission Viejo and Serra. Strengths of this year’s Poly team include several major returners including Colorado State commit QB Darius Curry and Oregon commit linebacker Dylan Williams.

“You know, we’re super excited,” said Curry. “This is really our team, I’m a senior I get to be the captain everyone’s looking up to me. The whole team is ready for this year, we can’t wait.”

Curry has proven to be a great leader and passer, with eye-popping stats last season, putting up 3,007 yards and 38 TDs to only four interceptions on a 68.3% completion rate. Just like last year, Curry will have plenty of options downfield as Poly has seven receivers with Division 1 scholarship offers.

Jordan Malau’ulu is committed to Fresno State and is great with the ball in his hands; sophomore Kamaury Smith will play the slot after starting last year as a freshman; Titus Bordeaux and Luke Buggs are strong routerunners with good hands; Caden Butler transferred in from Kansas and carries offers from Oregon among others; and Ezekiel Orozco is another talented inside player with great hands and an ability to move the sticks.

“Obviously everyone wants to get in there and get the rock,” said Barbee. “The to that really relies on Darius understanding each guy and what they bring to the table. He did a great job of delivering to the open man last year. He’s not just throwing to *his* guy he’s throwing to seven or eight so if you double someone, the other ones are going to beat somebody.”

Curry said there’s been no issues his last two years about ball distribution.

“It starts with the team goal, everybody’s goal is to win,” he said. “At the end of the day everybody’s getting fed, everybody’s getting the ball. So we focus on winning and putting up more points, we don’t worry about our individual numbers.”

Josh “Noodles” Cason will get the start at running back with 10.6 100 sophomore Malachi Dawson bringing a legitimate speed element alongside Wendell White and Omar Stokely. Colin Powell at 6-1 210 pounds will be the team’s fullback/TE situationally.

The biggest question on Poly’s team is its offensive line, which returns just one starter in center Jeremiah Filipo. The other starters are big but inexperienced, and Poly will need Tino Huckaby, Savion Day, Mathies To, Josh Mceachin, Anthony Rodriguez, and Tyler Gaines to step up.

On defense Poly has a talented but inexperienced line up front led by Troy and Toa Tamasoa on the edges, as well as Jaden Akins and Las Vegas transfer Mario Rivas at the DT spots. The linebacking corps is centered by Oregon commit Dylan Williams, with 6-2 245 pound hammer Jebediah Tuuupo and either Cason or Isaac Johnson on either side.

In the defensive backfield, Cameron Gherardi and Elijah Pouli will play the safety positions, with a ton of great options at cornerback. Deon Jackson, Michael Beresford, freshman Julius “Juju” Johnson, Tyger Canales, Quimari Shemwell, and Cory Hudson will be in the rotation there.

The Jackrabbits will have a chance to display their new lineup with two marquee games out of state to start the season, first tonight against reigning Division 1 Hawaii state champion Konawaena, and then in two weeks in Oregon on the Nike campus against national No. 2 Bishop Gorman.

“This group definitely feels like they’ve got something to prove,” said Barbee. “They don’t want rankings, they want to prove themselves on Friday nights. We’ve got a chance to continue to work hard and improve–we’ve had a great offseason and we’re excited to get started.”

Probable Starters:


QB – Darius Curry (Sr.)

RB – Josh “Noodles” Cason (Sr.) / Malachi Dawson (So.) / Wendell White (So.) / Omar Stokley (Sr.)

WR – Jordan Malau’ulu (Sr.) / Kamarie Smith (So.) / Caden Butler (So.) / Titus Bordeaux (Sr.) / Ezekiel Orozco (Jr.) / Luke Buggs (Sr.)

TE/FB – Colin Powell (Sr.)

LT – Savion Day (So.)

LG – Tino Huckaby (Sr.) / Mathies To (Jr.)

C – Jeremiah Filipo (Sr.)

RG – Tyler Gaines (So.) / Josh McEachin (Sr.)

RT – Mike Salinas (Sr.) / Anthony Rodriguez (So.)

K – Jonas Mendoza (Fr.)


DE – Troy Tamasoa (Sr.) 

DT – Jaden Akins (Sr.)

DT – Mario Rivas Jr. (Sr.)

DE – Toa Tamasoa (So.)

LB – Dylan Williams (Sr.)

LB – Jebbadiah Tuupo (Sr.)

LB – Josh “Noodles” Cason (Sr.) / Isaac Johnson (Sr.)

CB – Michael Beresford (Sr.) / Julis “Juju” Johnson (Fr.)

SS – Elijah Pouli (Jr.) / Isaac Johnson (Sr.)

FS – Cameron Gherardi (Sr.)

CB – Quimari Shemwell (Sr.) / Elisha “Tyger” Canales (Jr.) / Corey Hudson (Jr.)

CB – Deon Jackson (So.) / Donte Wright Jr. (Fr.)

P – Jebbadiah Tuupo (Sr.)

2023 Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits Football Schedule

8/11 – at Konawaena (Kona, Hawai’i)

8/25 – vs. Bishop Gorman (at Nike Campus, Oregon)

9/1 – vs. Mission Viejo (Vets)

9/8 – at Serra

9/15 – at Lakewood

9/22 – BYE

9/29 – vs. Millikan (Vets)

10/6 – vs. Wilson (Vets)

10/13 – at Cabrillo

10/20 – vs. Compton (Vets)

10/27 – at Jordan

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.