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Football: Lakewood Gives Poly All They Can Handle in Moore League Opener

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The Lakewood football team gave Long Beach Poly all they could handle in the two teams’ Moore League opener Friday night. The Lancers answered the Jackrabbits score for score for three quarters in a physical, grind-it-out contest, before Poly eventually wore their hosts down and pulled away for a 48-19 victory.

“We underperformed,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “Justin (Utupo) did an incredible job coming out with energy, their gameplan was awesome. And they gave us a game. I think we need to be able to practice better. Our past victories aren’t gonna win us any games in the future. We need to be able to prepare for every team with a championship effort, and we’re going to do better at that moving forward.”

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Lakewood coach Justin Utupo was frustrated because his team was only down one score at halftime, but wasn’t able to close the gap in the second half.

“We’re just going to keep fighting, that’s it,” he said. “We came out and played some good football in that first half, we’ve just got to put all four quarters together.”

Poly got on the board first on a “look what I found” interception return for a touchdown by freshman Julius Johnson, who was the happy recipient of a bobbled pass by a Lakewood receiver. But while Poly is used to getting a quick lead in a league game, Lakewood wasn’t content to let that be the story of the game. Sean Lane had a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, tying the game up.

Poly’s next drive ended in a touchdown as QB Darius Curry found his favorite target this year, sophomore Kamarie Smith. But Lakewood answered again, as QB Kade Casillas hit Caleb Tafua for a touchdown, only to have the extra point blocked by Deon Jackson to keep Poly in front 14-13. The Jackrabbits, with an injury-depleted roster, put Mikey Beresford and Johnson on the field as receivers–the duo normally only plays as defensive backs. Beresford had a touchdown catch on the next drive, but a late goal-line stand from Lakewood sent the game to halftime with Poly up just 21-13.

In the second half, the Jackrabbits came out running it, as Colin Powell and Malachi Dawson motored down the field, with Dawson punching it in to make it 28-13. Once again, Lakewood answered, as Casillas found JT DaCoud in the end zone; a failed two-point conversion kept the Lancers behind by two scores, down 28-19. 

From there to the end of the game it was all Poly, as Curry hit Beresford and Jordan Malau’ulu for scores and then Omar Stokley finished off the scoring to help Poly close on a 20-0 run.

It was an impressive performance by Curry, who threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns, including several completions to Beresford and Johnson in their first game playing receiver.

Lakewood got a big performance from Casillas, who had 140 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Utupo took over offensive playcalling duties for the Lancers, who have struggled on offense this year, and it seemed to light a spark.

“I think we found something offensively, I think simplifying things and allowing our playmakers to make plays helps,” said Utupo.

Poly (4-1, 1-0) has a bye then hosts Millikan while Lakewood hosts Cabrillo next week.

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