Football Long Beach Poly

CIF Football: Long Beach Poly Drops Overtime Heartbreaker to Servite

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The Long Beach Poly football team’s season came to an end in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on Friday night in heartbreaking fashion, as they dropped a 27-20 overtime game to Servite.

The Jackrabbits finish the season at 10-2 and will say goodbye to a talented senior class of more than 30 players. The game against Servite saw Poly make several uncharacteristic mistakes, and fail to close the game despite multiple opportunities to do so.

“We left way too much on the field, from an uncharacteristic missed extra point to multiple drives in their red zone with zero points, it’s definitely frustrating,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “But I couldn’t be more proud of the way that our defense stepped out, they kept bailing us out. We had our opportunities and we didn’t make the plays when we needed to. Servite is a great team, but I felt we definitely kept them in the game.”

Poly outgained the Friars 356 yards to 230, but four costly turnovers and other miscues proved to be the difference, as the opportunistic Friars jumped on every Poly mistake and seized the opportunity to flip momentum. 

Poly struck first late in the first quarter on a 57-yard touchdown from Darius Curry to Kamarie Smith, but after giving up a lengthy kickoff return immediately after, the Poly defense couldn’t defend a short porch as Servite started from the Poly 15, and the Friars evened the score up.

The Jackrabbits were rolling on the ensuing drive into Servite territory but an interception killed the drive, then the Friars once again took advantage of the short porch to take a 14-7 lead. Feeling a sense of urgency, Poly answered, as Curry found Smith again for a 30-yard score; a missed extra point left them behind a point, 14-13.

The Poly defense played lights out–all of Servite’s regulation touchdowns came after Poly turnovers or the long kickoff return. They got a stop on the next drive and the offense quickly moved into scoring position and got it across as Curry dropped one in for Jordan Malau’ulu to take a 20-14 lead.

It looked like Poly would start to pull away later in the half as sophomore Deon Jackson appeared to rip the ball out of a Servite receivers’ hands and scoop it, heading to the end zone uncontested. The referee on Poly’s sideline blew the play dead well after Jackson had scooped it and begun to run, however, saying it was an incompletion. That sent the teams to the locker room with Poly up 20-14. Curry was 13/15 for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, with the one interception.

The Jackrabbits had every chance to put the game away in the second half but ended up being held scoreless, despite moving the ball with relative ease. An opening-drive interception gave it back to Servite, but the Poly defense held them to a three-and-out. The Jackrabbits’ next drive featured several big plays and reached the Servite 18 before they turned it over on downs. After another defensive stand, Poly reached midfield and took the clock into the fourth quarter but again came away empty.

On the ensuing drive, Servite fumbled the ball away and Oregon commit Dylan Williams recovered it for Poly, giving them the ball at the Servite 30 with a chance to put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter. Instead a blindside corner blitz caught Curry unawares and the fumble went Servite’s way. They took over on their own 35, not having scored a touchdown yet on a long drive. Quarterback Leo Hannan led them on a 65-yard five-minute scoring drive, with the touchdown coming with just 1:17 on the clock. A bobbled snap on the extra point meant Servite didn’t convert, and the score stayed 20-20.

Poly had a chance to win it as Curry hit Smith, Luke Buggs, Malau’ulu, and Ezekiel Orozco to get down to the Servite 20. With six seconds left on the clock, the Jackrabbits attempted a field goal, but freshman Jonas Mendoza’s kick sailed wide left.

Barbee said it made sense to go for the field goal and the win instead of trying one last throw into the end zone.

“You’re dealing with six seconds, depending on how long that play takes it could be the last one,” he said. “Pregame he was making those, and we felt he had the leg for it, which he did, it was just a little wide left.”

That sent the game into overtime, where Poly won the toss and elected to play defense first. Servite started on the Poly 25 and got a nine yard run from Hannon, before running back Quaid Carr sprinted 18 yards to paydirt. Carr had a great game putting up 121 yards on 20 carries, with the touchdown.

Poly took over down 27-20 needing a touchdown. They got one as Curry hit Smith, but it came back on an illegal man downfield. Then Curry hit Buggs fro 10 yards, and Malau’ulu for another 10 to put Poly at first and goal on the Servite 10. But the snap went over Curry’s head, and Servite recovered it to end the game, and send the Friars streaming onto the field in celebration.

“Our kids never folded, in football you have to try your best and sometimes you’re not going to win,” said Barbee. “It’s a matter of getting yourself up, holding your head high, being proud of the work you did and knowing that you competed. The score wasn’t what we wanted but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort by our team this year.”

VIDEO: Long Beach Poly vs. Servite CIF Football
PHOTOS: Long Beach Poly vs Servite CIF 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.