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Football: Long Beach Poly Beats Serra In Game Shortened By Police Decision

The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation

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The Long Beach Poly and Serra rivalry already had everything…or so we thought. Southern California’s closest rivalry got a strange new chapter Friday evening as the Gardena Police called the game at halftime due to an unruly scene outside the stadium. The game was finalized with the Jackrabbits firmly in control and preparing to receive the opening kickoff of the second half up 28-14.

“I wish we were able to play the second half,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We have nothing but respect for (Serra coach Scott Altenberg) and his kids and his program. Unfortunately outside circumstances that we have no control over caused it to stop. The police called the game, and we’re just sitting on the field waiting to be allowed to leave.”

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Throughout the first half there was a long line of spectators waiting to get into the game, stuck out in the parking lot. Many in line said they had already purchased tickets, but weren’t allowed in. As the first half came to a close a police helicopter hovered over the parking lot and told the gathered crowd to disperse. Large groups of people began running from the Serra side of the stands towards the Poly side of the stands at that point, and police were quickly on the scene.

Police in riot gear with heavy padding and shields were seen on the Serra side of the field as well as in the parking lot as they tried to disperse the crowd outside. The game officials notified both coaches that the halftime would be extended while the police tried to clear the scene outside, but after a 15-minute delay the two schools’ administrations were told that police were calling the game off.

It created a strange scene with both teams stuck on the field until all of the parking lot and all the fans in the stands were cleared out, which took until after 10 p.m. Barbee said that Poly and Serra would continue to play each other each year, but that they would have to find a new venue.

“Both programs want to play the game, and we need to come together and figure out a place where we’re able to play it,” he said. “A lot of people want to see this game, it’s one of the best matchups in the preseason, year in and year out. We’ll talk with Serra and try to figure out something that works.”

In the game’s opening minutes it looked like Poly’s defense would be the story. They forced a first-drive turnover on a corner blitz strip sack by Quimari Shemwell, scooped up by Mikey Beresford. The Jackrabbits quickly marched downfield on a 42-yard pass from QB Darius Curry to Caden Butler, then Josh “Noodles” Cason punched it in for a touchdown. The two teams went back and forth after that until Serra eventually had a run-heavy drive end in a passing touchdown late in the first quarter, cutting the lead to 7-6 thanks to a missed extra point.

Poly had the next scoring drive, an impressive one by Curry as he converted three third downs, including passes to Jordan Malau’ulu and Ezekiel Orozco. Curry eventually found Kamarie Smith for a 21-yard score to make it 14-6. But Cincere Rhaney and the Serra offense immediately answered, as the power back Rhaney got a 40-yard gain and then a five-yard touchdown run; Serra converted the two-point try to tie the game at 14.

The Jackrabbits got the ball back with 1:41 in the half–and, as it turned out, the game. Fortunately for them, it was a good final 100 seconds of football. On the Serra 34, Curry rolled out to his right and heaved a ball deep into the end zone as he was shoved out of bounds. The ball deflected off a Serra DB and into the hands of Smith, for his second TD catch of the day and fifth in two weeks.

“I was happy with how I played, couple tubs, couple catches,” said Smith, who had three catches for 58 yards and two scores. “It’s frustrating to not be able to finish the game, but it is what it is.”

It was another masterful effort from Curry, who was 13/21 for 223 yards and three touchdowns in one half of action. Curry singlehandedly outgained the Serra offense, putting up 223 yards to Serra’s 175 yards as a team.

“We were going to do something shocking in that second half, it was showtime for us,” said Curry. “We were ready to back out there and show out. It was time to dominate, we scored twice in a minute we were ready to really turn it up. We can see the progress we’re making week by week and we’re just ready to keep busting people in the mouth.”

Rhaney was just about the only bright spot for Serra offensively, with 79 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. The rest of the Cavaliers’ offense was limited to 96 total yards in the first half, and one touchdown.

Barbee was happy with parts of his team’s execution, but felt they were inconsistent.

“Hats off to their running back and their offensive line, Cincere is one of the best backs around,” he said. “We have to be more consistent, we have to move the ball methodically.”

Poly (3-1) will now enter Moore League play in strong position to end up in the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs for the second year in a row. The Jackrabbits are now up to No. 5 in the CalPreps rankings following the win over Serra.

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs Serra Football
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs Serra Football
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.