At the end of a hard battle between two traditional local powers, Long Beach Poly made just enough plays to eke out a win over Los Alamitos, 27-20.
“We made it as hard as possible,” said Poly head coach Antonio Pierce. “Credit to Los Al for testing us, that’s a good challenge for us on special teams.”
The Griffins’ special teams truly were special, as they scored a touchdown on a fake field goal, converted two fake punts to extend drives, and scored another touchdown on a flea flicker.
Poly, on the other hand, went to the ground and pound offense the way Pierce promised to before the season, relying on stud running backs Aaron Shampklin and Mike Mauai, who combined for over 250 yards on the ground and three touchdowns (Shampklin had 24 carries for 133 yards and Mauai had 19 carries for 116).
“It was really fun, it was like a Poly throwback to when Raul Lara was here,” said Shampklin with a smile after the game.
“They’re as good as we thought they’d be, that’s a hell of a one-two punch,” said Pierce.
The Jackrabbits defense came up with several big plays, including a fumble recovery by Josh Brown, two sacks by Edgar Hayes, and two interceptions, including one by Josh Talbott to seal the game.
Poly went up 7-0 and looked in control midway through the first after a run-heavy drive capped by a Shampklin TD. But Los Al busted out the flea flicker on the next play, as quarterback Hayden Smith hit a wide open receiver for a 48 yard score to pull within 7-6.
The Griffins took control with a score on a fake field goal catch by R.J. Gonzalez, who also had a plunge later to put Los Al up 20-7 in the second.
Poly bounced right back with a 55 yard sprint TD up the gut from Mauai, and then a dive from Shampklin just before halftime to make it 20-20.
The two teams were locked in a tie for most of the second half as penalties stalled promising Jackrabbit drives, until finally QB Nolan McDonald hit his brother Camren McDonald for a fourth and goal touchdown that put Poly up 27-20. From there the Jackrabbit D came up with big plays as Brown recovered a fumble and Talbott picked off a would-be game-tying TD pass from Smith.
“Every time they rolled out they threw it deep so when I saw him roll out I just backpedaled and went up and got it,” said Talbott, who was mobbed on the sideline as his team’s offense knelt out the clock.
It was a promising loss for the Griffins, and head coach Ray Fenton was pleased with his team.
“I think we expected to play with these guys,” he said. “We have a great tradition at Los Al.”
Asked how pleased he was with the trick plays working, he smiled and said, “I was jacked out of my mind.”
The Griffins also got a huge performance from Dylan Laurent, who had a number of big tackles and big runs.
Los Al (0-1) will host Paraclete on campus next week while Poly (1-0) will host Narbonne at Veterans Memorial Stadium.