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Football Long Beach Poly Wilson

PREVIEW: Long Beach Poly vs Wilson Football

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

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

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

Once again it’s time for The Big Game, Long Beach’s oldest sports tradition as Long Beach Poly hosts Wilson in the 91st meeting between the two teams, Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.

These two teams first met in 1932 and have continued their historic rivalry over the decades, although as of late it’s been Poly heavy, with the Jackrabbits winning every meeting since 1991.

The Jackrabbits are coming off a pair of tough Moore League games with an overtime win over Millikan and a closer-than-expected win over Lakewood. Poly coach Stephen Barbee hopes those close calls have been a wake-up call.

“I think it’s just being more intentional in everything that we do, being a lot more focused on the little things, and really holding nothing back as far as getting better,” he said. “We’ve had a lot more intense practice than we’ve had in weeks past and really started to get going again.”

Both coaches are well aware of the history of The Big Game. Wilson coach Scott Meyer’s family has been a part of it for generations–the football facility at the school is named after his grandfather, Cliff Meyer. And Barbee has a 1950s CIF football champion alum who specifically requested to come to Friday’s game to take in the newest incarnation of the Big Game.

“It’s the pageantry,” said Barbee. “One great thing about that game is, regardless of what the records are, it’s gonna be a packed house whether it’s at Vets or at Stephens Field.”

The Jackrabbits (5-1, 2-0) are looking to continue a 14-year long league win streak, and move another step closer to a Moore League title. Key for Poly will be containing a resurgent Wilson ground game that’s one of the more exciting groups in the city, with running backs Laighton Scott V and Christian Chapman piling up yardage and touchdowns the last few weeks.

“We’re a little different team with those guys,” said Meyer. “Christian’s vision, and how hard Laighton runs for a guy with his speed. Being able to run the ball is great, and with a sophomore quarterback as well it takes a little pressure off (Mack Cooper).”

For the Bruins (3-3, 2-1), the challenge will be containing a multifaceted Poly offense that has seen QB Darius Curry put up big numbers this week, followed by running back Josh “Noodles” Cason scoring multiple touchdowns the next. Meyer said he thinks Poly is as strong as ever despite the two recent league results.

“I think they’re really good, they played a really tough schedule,” he said. “People look at that Millikan game but Millikan’s really good.”

Meyer said that his team has had a great week of practice and that he’s glad he scheduled a tough nonleague–it’s helped his team prepare for the rigors of the Moore League schedule, where they’re currently tied for second with Millikan and Lakewood.

“It’s Poly Wilson, it’s exciting just to be a part of it, it’s such a longstanding game,” said Meyer.

Wilson will host Jordan next Friday while Poly will travel to Cabrillo.

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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.