September 7, 2019
By Mike Guardabascio
Long Beach Poly’s football team needed a win in the worst way after a tough season-opening loss to Punahou. The Jackrabbits’ performance against Los Alamitos in a televised game at Veterans Memorial Stadium wasn’t always pretty, but the end result was beautiful for Poly as they bounced back with a 20-14 victory.
“We have to keep getting better,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What type of team are we? Are we a team that finishes?’”
The Poly defense started and finished things. The game was 0-0 after a quarter, meaning the Jackrabbits had gone five quarters without scoring a point. When John Jaster’s punt pinned Los Al deep thanks to a Jordan Wheeler tackle, it set up a safety when middle linebacker Bryun Parham fired the a-gap and tackled the Los Al running back in the end zone.
Poly’s 2-0 lead quickly turned into an 8-0 lead when Ramil Brown took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. The defense continued to make plays as Jonathan Scott and Amajay Gravelly had interceptions and Kam Blanton broke up a pass. Khilyn Neal had a blocked punt that set Poly up on the one-yard line, where quarterback Mehki Jordan plunged in from one yard out to put Poly up 14-0 just before halftime.
In the second half, Los Al answered to cut it to 14-7, before the Jackrabbits finally got their first and only real scoring drive of the season, capped on a 43-yard run by Malachi Rice; Rice finished with 21 carries for 124 yards and the score.
Los Al scored again to cut the lead to 2-14, and after Jordan was sacked, Poly had to punt the ball back with 2:32 left in the game. Jaster got the punt off out of his own end zone to avoid disaster, and then the Poly defense stepped up to finish the game, with Neal and Parham bringing down the Los Al QB to ice the game.
“I’m ready to go practice right now, I’m ready to play again right now,” said Parham after the game. The junior linebacker had three tackles for a loss including two sacks and the safety. “I’ve been on these sidelines forever, I was here when Josh Brown and Jayon Brown were here, when JuJu was here–I just want to make a name for myself and Poly.”
The Jackrabbits offense only gained 197 yards and just 76 yards passing, but the Poly defense was outstanding, holding Los Al to eight net yards in the first half and just 118 in the game. Poly held Los Al’s quarterbacks to 9/34 passing with 112 yards and two interceptions.
“I thought our defense made plays when we needed to, our offense showed signs of life,” said Barbee.
Poly (1-1) will travel to face Gardena Serra on Friday next week, then return to Vets to host Corona Centennial on September 20.