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Football Long Beach Poly

Feature: Joshua Cason is Long Beach Poly Football’s ‘Heart and Soul’

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 Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

Long Beach Poly’s football program has a long history of star athletes, many of them gifted with impressive size and speed. A fan might expect that a two-way standout for the Jackrabbits was 6-foot plus, or a 250-pound bruiser who can still run a 4.5 40.

This year? The “heart and soul” of the program according to Poly coach Stephen Barbee is listed generously on the roster at 5-foot-9. He’s not the biggest player on the team, or the fastest. But Joshua “Noodles” Cason is a three-year starter, and a standout at linebacker as well as the team’s most productive running back.

“He really loves this program and this team, and he understands that his days are numbered getting to wear a Long Beach Poly uniform,” said Barbee. “He’s making the most of it. He’s in on defense, offense, and special teams, and the way he goes is how we go. He’s our heart and soul.”

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Cason led the team in tackles as a sophomore and junior, and is a standout on defense this year. When he left Poly’s game against Serra with a hamstring strain, the Cavaliers’ yards-per-carry average in the run game jumped from just over two yards to nearly seven. In last week’s overtime win over Millikan, it was Cason who scored three touchdowns including the game-winner in overtime, where he dragged three defenders with him into the end zone.

For Cason, his accomplishments don’t come from a desire to glorify himself, but out of a genuine love for his school and team. His whole family are Jackrabbits as well, back to a grandfather who played football at Poly, and he grew up knowing that he’d wear green and gold.

“I’ve been around Poly my whole life, I was on the sideline as a kid at all the games, I was a ballboy, a water boy, whatever I could do to get down there,” he said. “Those Friday nights were different.”

Cason was a well-known youth football standout as he was growing up, but there was question as to whether he’d go to Poly or to Orange Lutheran, where his older brother Daylon was coaching as Joshua entered high school.

“My mom and I were just like, ‘Poly’s home,’” he said. “There is no other place. The brotherhood here is something that you can’t find anywhere else.”

The themes of home and family are significant in Cason’s life. He lost his father when he was six years old to a sudden liver illness, a loss that impacted him enormously, but that he didn’t want to let define him as he grew. The Cason family has always been heavily involved Antioch Church in Long Beach, and Joshua grew up with faith.

“I was a mature kid, and when I knew my dad was going to pass away I told my mom, ‘He’s going to be in a better place,’” he said. “God’s got my father. He was a great man and I grew up hearing stories about him almost every day.”

It’s not a coincidence that after every touchdown, Cason kisses his hand and points up at the sky.

“My pops knows what he means to me,” he said. “I give glory to God and give thanks.”

Cason’s older brother Daylon, now the defensive backs coach at LBCC, said he’s proud of his younger brother for staying the course, and proud of how he’s represented his community and family.

“My mom has done an amazing job and the community and our church did an amazing job wrapping their arms around Joshua as he’s grown up,” he said. “Now it’s about finishing, and about getting across the finish line.”

Daylon also said that the culture at Poly was a big part of why he trusted the Poly coaches with his little brother’s future.

“When he got here, Barbee made a promise to me and my family, to love on Joshua and make sure he was good, and he’s stayed true to that,” he said. “He’s a kid who’s had a lot of family and community and coaches behind him.”

Joshua has reflected that love back to his school and his city ten-fold, whether it’s with big plays on the field or with quiet, steady leadership off of it.

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, I’ve always played that way, and I’ve always loved my teammates,” he said. “I just want to leave a mark on Poly however I can.”

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.