LONG BEACH -- So much for that.
No. 5 Long Beach Poly entered Friday night's matchup with No. 25 St. Bonaventure at Veterans Stadium as the clear favorite to earn a key nonleague victory, but those thoughts were quickly erased as the Seraphs unloaded a surprise walloping on the host Jackrabbits from the early going, toppling Poly 32-7.
Junior quarterback Marc Evans, making his first career varsity start, completed 17-of-25 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown to lead the Seraphs. Receiver/cornerback Tanner Souza added two receptions of 35 yards or more, an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown and defensive back Bobby Marquez had two interceptions.
From the start, it was clear that the Seraphs -- projected to fall off in the tough-as-nails Marmonte League this season -- had something to prove.
"It meant the world to us," Evans said of the victory. "Just all the rivalry, coming out, putting up that score -- it felt great."
St. Bonaventure went three and out on its first drive and looked to be suffering from some first-game jitters. But only a few plays after Poly took the field for the first time, junior quarterback Chaiyse Hales attempted a swing pass to his left and hit his receiver spot on, only to have the ball immediately come out of his hands and Souza to pounce on it at the 42-yard line and take it back all the way for a touchdown.
It took a little while, but the rout was on from there. Three drives later, Evans found senior receiver Christian White for a 46-yard gain to the two and proceeded it to run it in himself for the touchdown. The Seraphs would score again before the half, making it 22-0 at the break.
In a 42-28 win over state power Bakersfield last week, Hales connected with speedy receiver Richard Smith for three touchdowns and the Jackrabbits' passing game looked like a force to be reckoned with.
But it was nowhere near that Friday, with Hales missing targets left and right and alternate quarterback Emmanuel Lara not faring much better. The quarterbacks combined to throw four interceptions on the night, and the Jackrabbits were held scoreless until Smith found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Over and over, Hales would heave the ball downfield and hope that a fellow Poly player would come down with it. It didn't often work.
Said Souza: "They weren't patient enough to hit the unders and the outs (on pass plays), so they just kept going for the deep ball. As DB's, all we had to do was eliminate the deep ball and this is what happens."
Poly, coming off a disappointing 6-6 season in 2009, had been hoping to make noise in the Open Division race for a state bowl bid. While an early-season loss doesn't rule anything of that nature out, it does put the Jackrabbits in a deep hole with tough contests against Mission Viejo and Lakewood coming up in the next month.
"Obviously this hurts our state chances -- everybody's gotta lose now -- but we'll see what happens," Poly coach Raul Lara said. "We just gotta play it out game-by-game."
The 5-9, 165-pound Souza was the star of the night for the Seraphs. See what he had to say in a one-on-one video interview after the victory, including a surprising straight answer when asked if he was surprised by Poly's poor performance: