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Football Long Beach Poly

FEATURE: Long Beach Poly’s Receiving Corps Have Become Family

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.

It was well after midnight last Friday, hours after the Long Beach Poly football team’s dramatic playoff win over Vista Murrieta. The Jackrabbits’ receiving corps wasn’t out at a party celebrating the win, or sitting at home resting and getting ready for this week’s CIF-SS quarterfinals on the road against Servite.

They were huddled together at a hospital in Long Beach, there to visit teammate and fellow Jackrabbit receiver Charles Clinton, who sustained a serious injury during the playoff game. When Clinton saw his teammates, his first question was, “Did yall get the dub for me?”

“We got it for you,” said senior Poly receiver Luke Buggs.

Was it surprising that the Poly receivers’ first concern was their teammate, or that Clinton’s first thoughts upon seeing them were about the game? Not to Poly receivers coach Josiah Blandin.

“Those kids are family,” he said. “They’ve bonded into a real unit–the love they have for each other is genuine.”


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Having a deep receiving corps is known to high school coaches as both a blessing and a curse. More talent is always a good thing, especially when you start looking at a depth chart and lining up a fourth and fifth Division 1-caliber receiver against opponents’ fourth and best defensive backs. But there can also be headaches–everyone wants the ball, everyone wants the stats.

You’d certainly expect that at Poly. The school has turned out more NFL receivers than any other in America, and this year’s group was deep even by Poly’s standards. Seniors Jordan Malau’ulu (Fresno State commit), Clinton (Utah Tech commit), and Luke Buggs all have scholarship offers. So does junior Caden Butler, who’s being recruited by major Pac-12 programs, the same as super sophomore Kamarie Smith. Junior Ezekiel Orozco is also being recruited, and has been one of the most reliable pass-catchers in that group. Taj Bordeaux is another talented wideout for the Jackrabbits.

Poly coach Stephen Barbee said that despite that depth, the Jackrabbits receivers have been willing to sacrifice for each other.

“Most teams hope to have one or two of those guys and we had eight this year, and they’re unselfishly working with each other towards the same goal,” said Barbee. “They’re not counting the catches, they’re making the catches count.”

That doesn’t mean that Poly quarterback Darius Curry doesn’t hear from his receivers throughout the game–they can all come to the sideline hot about not getting the ball on a particular play.

“Yeah, I think we’re all open every single play and I think Darius has heard that,” said Malau’ulu. “Watch the film, we’re all open, and we’re running our routes to get our teammates open.”

The strength of Curry’s personality and leadership has allowed that competitiveness to be constructive, but so has the receiving group’s genuine affection for each other. After any Poly touchdown catch, you’ll see the other receivers in the end zone dancing and celebrating their teammates.

“If our brothers eating, we’re eating as well,” said Buggs. “You might have zero targets but your brother might have three touchdowns. I’m as happy to be in the endzone with them as I am for myself.”

“We want to win, we want to keep playing,” said Malau’ulu. “If my brother’s eating, I’m going to let him eat. We’re not taking food off each other’s plates. And if they’re balling then they’re going to get doubled and now I’m open.”

Unfortunately due to injuries, the depth of that receiving corps has been severely depleted. Clinton is out after the severe injury, Bourdeaux has missed most of the season, and Butler tore his ACL earlier this year. Blandin, who played at Poly before moving on to Arizona State and Fresno State, said his group’s closeness has carried them through some choppy waters.

“You deal with injuries and other things during a season,” he said. “They want to see each other perform well, so whenever one of them gets a chance they do their part, they do their job. And guys who might have had limited opportunities but stayed positive, now they’re up and guys are rooting for them. It makes everything easier having those kinds of guys. When they say they went to see Charles in the hospital, no one told them to do that–they did that because of how they feel about each other, that’s why I say they’re like family.”

The love between coach and players is mutual. Blandin has developed a reputation as a great developer of receiving talent, and is beloved by his players not just for his on-field skills but for serving in a mentor role as well.

“He adds character, he’s not just our football coach he’s a real teacher for us on and off the field,” said Malau’ulu. “I came here as a DB and he started teaching me all the finer points of being a receiver and he stuck with me. He’s pursued me to be the best I can be, he does that for all of us.”

“It’s deeper than just football, he’s someone we really respect a lot as a coach and a man,” said Buggs. “He sees our full potential and wants us to reach that.”

The next step on that journey for the Jackrabbits is Friday against Servite at Cerritos College at 7pm. We’ll have live updates from the field.

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.