LONG BEACH -- A second straight Moore League championship appears to be heading Long Beach Poly's way.
The Jackrabbits reached the end zone on three consecutive possessions to start the second half, erasing a four-point deficit and beating rival Lakewood, 38-21, Friday night at Veterans Stadium. Backup quarterback Nick Pope put Poly in front with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State-bound Richard Smith and, after the defense came up with an interception, Gerard Wicks found a gaping hole for a 19-yard scoring scamper. A few minutes later, Chaiyse Hales sneaked in from a yard out to basically seal it.
"We were playing lackadaisical, like we're not here," Poly coach Raul Lara said. "It seemed like guys were afraid to make plays. We had a nice little speech for our offense at halftime."
The Lancers pulled to within 10 with 4:52 remaining but John Smith returned the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown.
Lakewood’s upset bid looked promising early. Jaleel Wadood bullied Hales, stripping him of the football and returning it 64 yards for the score. A sophomore taking the ball from a senior? Clearly, there were no rivalry jitters for Wadood, who, in the second quarter, also saved a sure touchdown by nearly intercepting a pass intended for the much taller Josiah Blandin.
A 47-yard field goal by Hayden Hunt put Poly (6-1, 3-0 Moore) on the board and the Jackrabbits took the lead, 10-7, after Jaylen Massengill recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
But stellar plays on special teams were followed by blunders.
Randall Goforth muffed a punt late in the first half and Lakewood jumped on it, getting the ball at the Poly 23 with 1:51 remaining. The Lancers capitalized -- quarterback Brock Dale hit Darius Powe for a dazzling 19-yard touchdown despite a Goforth pass interference penalty.
Lakewood (5-2, 2-1) held a 14-10 lead at halftime and had its sights set on beating Poly for the second time in three years.
But the Jackrabbits' offensive flurry, particularly the go-ahead score on Pope's perfect pass to a diving Smith, dashed the Lancers' hopes.
"They had been playing bump-and-run the whole night," Pope said. "I just figured Richard was going to get off. It was a great route by him and a great catch."
Richard Smith finished with eight receptions for 102 yards. Hales and Pope combined for 219 yards passing, while Dale had 173 and two touchdowns for Lakewood.