Long Beach Poly Steamrolls Clovis in Opener – The562.org
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The temperature was even higher than the Long Beach Poly football team’s expectations for this season, but the Jackrabbits rocked it and put on an impressive season opener, dominating Clovis High in a victory over Highway 56-7.
Even with a 49-point differential, the scoreboard was still a liar, as Poly had kept the Cougars at negative offensive distance midway through the fourth quarter and truly dominated the game from start to finish.
Proof of the height of coach Stephen Barbee’s hopes for this team could be found in his muted response to the lopsided victory.
“We certainly have a lot to clean up, some penalty issues, ball safety,” he said. “But ultimately to come out with a win where everyone got to play and we had so many people making impact plays, that’s great. I love that everyone played a part in the victory.
For anyone who has followed Poly’s football team for a while, here is the most startling statistic of the night: no Poly player came out of the first game of the season with cramps, despite a temperature of kick off from 102 degrees. There were a few shutouts for Clovis player cramps, but the Jackrabbits heeded their coaches’ advice to stay hydrated.
It was a good start to the year for the Poly offense and for junior QB Darius Curry, who was playing his first game as Poly’s starting QB and leader. Curry went 23/30 for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Just as impressive as the line was the way he spread the ball to Poly receivers, with four different Jackrabbits scoring a TD and six winning over 30 yards.
“It’s not planned like that, it’s because we have dogs in every position,” Curry said. “They are all going to eat. They are all incompatible.
It was an impressive performance considering most of Poly’s receivers are new to the school playing role. Returning stud and USC commit Jason Robinson Jr. had six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown for 64 yards and Jadyn Robinson had for 34 yards; Raiden Brown (37-yard touchdown), Jordan Malau’ulu (three catches, 34 yards) and Charles Clinton (three catches, 53 yards, TD) were all new faces.
“We have a brotherhood and we worked really hard in the spring and summer to make sure we were all ready to come out here and win together,” Curry said. He was also effective in the screen game, finding Devin Samples for four catches, 64 yards and a TD. Samples also had 41 rushing yards and one rushing score.
The only tough spots for the offense were a lost fumble and two long recalled touchdowns on penalties, which nullified TD catches by Jadyn Robinson and Luke Buggs.
Samples scored on the ground and Karon Green looked great as Poly’s other fullback was in the spotlight, also scoring a pair of touchdowns.
Poly senior All-American Daylen Austin wasn’t happy with his game, despite a punt return for a touchdown and an interception that was called up for a penalty. That’s because he also missed a punt and dropped an interception in the first half.
He said a loud-talking Clovis coach helped him focus.
“I was too much in my head trying to play a perfect game,” the LSU commit said. “My team and my coaches let me know they were 100 per cent behind me at half-time which helped me, but when their coach spoke to me it really motivated me.
Barbee said he didn’t appreciate hearing an opposing coach talk to one of his players like that.
“I ended up saying something to the referee,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are all competitive. But as a coach you want to train all the kids – I always do that with everyone we play with. Kids talk enough bullshit, it’s not our job. When we go places we act a certain way and I’m proud of that. I can only coach my team, but I think it’s important that we treat the kids the right way. I was happy to see Daylen return the punt. I dismissed him earlier (after the failed punt) and told him I wasn’t pulling him out of the game, I believe in him.
Poly’s defense was beyond dominant. The Jackrabbits ran just two plays in their own territory in the first quarter and completely stifled Clovis. When Poly’s starters came out midway through the fourth quarter with the clock running, they had held the Cougars to negative total offensive yardage. USC hired linebacker Dylan Williams set the tone early with a big hit and tackle for a loss in the first game.
Williams, Joshua Cason, Phoenix Tusa, Dom Lolesio, Isaac Johnson and Ike Mikaele all had tackles for a loss in the game, and Cason and Chase Stewart both had interceptions.
The only flaw in a strong game was the single abandoned touchdown. He came on a bizarre drive, which saw Poly force yet another three and out, then stifle a punt and see it picked up by Clovis. Then a series of pass interference and hit penalties (which nullified two interceptions) helped Clovis reach the five-yard line, where they scored their only touchdown of the game on the only positive yardage play from all the way.
Now it’s Serra week
At the end of his speech to his players after the game, Barbee told them it was officially Serra week, getting a bigger response from his team than the 56-7 win. Poly and Serra have had arguably SoCal’s best rivalry streak in the past decade, with a one-score streak. The contest will be televised on Bally Sports and will also be Poly’s home opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.