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Football Long Beach Poly

PREVIEW: Long Beach Poly vs Servite CIF 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 Poly is sponsored by Bryson Financial.

The Long Beach Poly football team (10-1) is preparing for a big public/private showdown this week as the Jackrabbits travel to Cerritos College Friday at 7 p.m. to take on the Trinity League’s Servite (6-5) in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals.

There isn’t much history between the Jackrabbits and Friars, but what little there is has mostly been dominated by Servite, with Poly beating them just once in school history.

“We’ve had three good days of practice so far, and you just want everything to be perfect but it never is,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We have to be able to execute and hit on all cylinders. If we can help each other out we put ourselves in a good position.”

Poly wasn’t sharp in all three phases last week, and how their leaders bounce back will go a long way towards determining this week’s game against Servite. QB Darius Curry threw three interceptions in last week’s playoff opener, the same number that he threw his entire junior season. He’ll need to be sharp, and Poly’s offensive line will need to protect him so he’s got time to read through the multiple high-talent receivers the Jackrabbits line up with, including Kamarie Smith, Jordan Malau’ulu, Ezekiel Orozco, and Luke Buggs.

The offensive line was a major focus for the Jackrabbits in practice this week, as was their defensive front. Servite’s biggest strength is their offensive line, with 280+ pound starters across the board. They’ll try to create time and space for Friars QB Leo Hannan (a Long Beach native) and running back Quaid Carr. Poly’s defensive line will need to have another big game, with MJ Rivas, the Tamasoa brothers, and others all in the mix. The Jackrabbits linebackers (Dylan Williams, Joshua Cason, Jeb Tuupo and Isaac Johnson) will need to be active in helping to stop the run as well.

The Jackrabbits defensive backs have been the team’s strength these playoffs and throughout the season, with 15 interceptions in 11 games including a game-ender last week by Cameron Gherardi. If he, Quimari Shemwell, Mikey Beresford, and the rest of the Jackrabbits secondary can continue their performance, Poly can make Servite’s offense one-dimensional.

That’s a key, because the Friars are known for mixing up looks this season, and they’re battled tested with games in the Trinity League and a win over Los Alamitos, as well as a comfortable 48-24 win last week in their playoff opener.

“Their coach is a sharp special teams guy and he does quite a bit of different things with that offense,” said Barbee. “We’ve got to understand what he’s trying to do and be in the right spots on defense. We’ve got a good gameplan on both sides, it just comes down to execution–we’ve got to move the chains, and we’ve got to get them out on third down.”

The winner of Poly/Servite will face the winner of Los Al and Serra (Poly would host Serra or “travel” to Los Al) in the semifinals. We’ll have full coverage of the game.

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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.