Los Angeles Preps: Raul Lara

L.A. South: The Top 10

November, 27, 2011
Long Beach Poly fell out of the region's top spot for the first time this season following its second-round loss to Santa Margarita. Last week's second- and third-ranked teams -- St. John Bosco and Charter Oak, respectively -- also stumbled. Now, three of the region's top four squads come from the City Section. Marine League champion and top-seeded San Pedro is the only remaining undefeated team in the south Los Angeles County top 10 rankings heading into the third round of the playoffs:

1. (4) San Pedro (12-0)
The top-seeded Pirates eliminated the two-time defending City Section Division I champs Friday, securing another matchup with fifth-seeded Carson. The Marine League champs defeated the Colts 21-0 on Oct. 28. Last week: Beat Crenshaw, 31-7. Next: semifinals vs. Carson, Friday.

2. (1) Long Beach Poly (10-2)*
The lack of consistency from the quarterback positions was a season-long concern for coach Raul Lara. That turned into a nightmare Friday when the Jackrabbits were intercepted five times. The good news: Gerard Wicks returns next season. Last week: Lost to Santa Margarita, 49-16.

3. (5) Narbonne (9-3)
Junior quarterback Troy Williams had six total touchdowns, and the emerging Tray Boone had two more to propel the Gauchos to their third straight 50-point performance. They now face perhaps the city's top defense. Last week: Beat West Adams, 59-20. Next: semifinals vs. Dorsey, Friday.

4. (6) Dorsey (11-1)
The fast and talented Dons defense had six takeaways Friday, and USC-bound receiver Jaydon Mickens had four total touchdowns to go along with six receptions and 82 yards. Last week: Beat Birmingham, 45-13. Next: semifinals at Narbonne, Friday.

5. (2) St. John Bosco (8-4)*
Bosco twice cut its deficit to four on Friday but the defense couldn't come up with stops. Still, the Braves made their first playoff appearance since 2006, so they've got nothing to hang their heads about. Last week: Lost to San Clemente, 42-24.

(Read full post)

L.A. South: Thursday's top games

November, 9, 2011
League championships are up for grabs across the region this week. Here are Thursday night's top five games in south Los Angeles County:

Cabrillo vs. No. 5 Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium, Thursday, 7 p.m. -- As the Jackrabbits take the final turn toward a second consecutive Moore League title, it's only fitting that ESPN High School will recognize the defending national champion Long Beach Poly girls' track team during halftime Thursday. Football coach Raul Lara, meanwhile, can only hope that his team -- specifically the defense -- sprints through the finish line. A win would give Poly (8-1, 5-0) sole possession of first place and likely secure a high seeding in the Pac-5 Division bracket. Upset-minded Cabrillo (7-2, 4-1) has the division's leading passer, senior Derek Stewart (2,116 yards, 19 touchdowns).

Diamond Ranch at West Covina, Thursday, 7 p.m. -- When West Covina coach Mike Maggiore had his team take on Loyola earlier this season, it was with games like this in mind. West Covina (8-1, 5-0) will stay home this time but the hungry Diamond Ranch Panthers (5-4, 4-1) will try everything to unseat the defending Hacienda League champions. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Division, can go perfect in league play for the second straight year.

La Puente vs. Azusa at Citrus College, Thursday, 7 p.m. -- The Mid-Valley Division poll that the CIF-Southern Section released before the season didn't include the La Puente Warriors (9-0, 6-0). Well, look at the Warriors now. They have a chance to finish with an unblemished mark and their first Montview League title since 2007. It won't be an easy task against Azusa (6-3, 6-0), the three-time defending league titlist.

El Monte at Arroyo, Thursday, 7 p.m. -- El Monte, coming off a thrilling win against crosstown rival South El Monte, has plenty of momentum. The Lions (7-2, 4-0) scored two touchdowns in the final 43 seconds to remain in contention to win its first league championship since 1979. Two-time defending champ Arroyo (8-1, 4-0) is potent behind quarterback Steven Rivera (2,512 passing yards, 33 total touchdowns).

Schurr at San Gabriel, Thursday, 7 pm. -- The San Gabriel Matadors (5-4, 4-0) can win the Almont League outright with a victory against visiting Schurr (3-6, 3-1). A Schurr win, combined with an Alhambra win at Bell Gardens, would create a three-way tie atop the standings.

L.B. Poly goes green ... then black

October, 17, 2011
Call it the ultimate switcheroo.

[+] EnlargeNick Pope
Blair Angulo for ESPN.comLong Beach Poly's Nick Pope and his teammates warmed up in their all-green uniforms before playing Lakewood ...
The Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits wore their customary all-green uniforms during warmups Friday night. They went into the locker room for coach Raul Lara's pregame speech and, minutes later, emerged from the Veterans Stadium tunnel sporting an all-black kit.

A makeshift fog machine composed of fire extinguishers made the surprise unveiling even more dramatic.

"We wanted to give everybody a show," senior Randall Goforth said following Poly's 38-21 victory over rival Lakewood. "It was for the seniors. Snoop Dogg bought them for us. We promised him we were going to wear them and represent."

Rapper Snoop Dogg, a Poly alum, sponsored the team and got sports apparel giant Adidas involved. He gave the Jackrabbits a choice of three different kits. They went with green, white and black.

[+] EnlargeNick Pope
Blair Angulo for ESPN.com... but then emerged from the lockerroom with sharp all-black kits that were given to the team by rapper Snoop Dogg, a Poly alum.
"I think it shows our confidence," senior quarterback Nick Pope said. "A lot of the guys were saying we look like Oregon and stuff like that, but I think our jerseys look better than Oregon's. It sent a message that we're trying to bring some type of swag to the game. I think it was pretty tight."

Surprising those in attendance was the main objective. Running out through the smoke, something often seen at college stadiums, added flare.

"Man, words can't explain how good these look," senior Richard Smith said.

Lara said his team will wear the all-black uniforms only on special occasions, perhaps in this year's CIF playoffs. Players were asked to return the uniforms to the school early this week.

"I'm going to find a way keep it," Smith said, "one way or another."

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

L.A. South: The Top 10

October, 16, 2011
Tough losses by Bishop Amat and Lakewood paved the way for some changes in our south Los Angeles County top 10 rankings heading into Week 7. (Note: Last week's rankings are in parentheses.)

1. (1) Long Beach Poly (6-1)
It wouldn't be Poly without a little controversy, but the two-quarterback system seems to be working for coach Raul Lara. Starter Chaiyse Hales and backup Nick Pope combined for 219 passing yards in an important Moore League win. Last week: Beat Lakewood, 38-21. Next: at Millikan, Oct. 28.

2. (3) Loyola (5-1)
No game for the Cubs last week, but they move up a spot thanks to Bishop Amat's loss to Alemany in the Serra League opener. Loyola begins the Serra against Notre Dame, which is coming off a stinging loss to Crespi. Last week: Idle. Next: vs. Sherman Oaks Notre Dame at L.A. Valley College, Friday.

3. (4) St. John Bosco (5-1)
Four more touchdown passes for Rene Medina, who is the top statistical quarterback in the Trinity League. The electrifying Bryce Treggs had a 90-yard touchdown catch and returned a punt for another score. Last week: Beat JSerra, 48-14. Next: vs. Mater Dei, Friday.

4. (2) Bishop Amat (5-2)
The troubled defense couldn't come up with a stop late in Friday's game and time simply ran out on the Lancers. Workhorse Jalen Moore had 112 yards rushing but there weren't enough big plays in important moments. Last week: Lost to Alemany, 26-21. Next: at Crespi, Friday.

5. (6) Charter Oak (5-1)
OK, who's controlling the joystick? Quarterback Travis Santiago passed for 325 yards, ran for 54 more and had five total touchdowns to open Sierra League play in fine fashion. Try doing that in a video game. Last week: Beat South Hills, 63-28. Next: vs. Ayala, Friday.

(Read full post)

No. 6 L.B. Poly 38, No. 19 Lakewood 21

October, 15, 2011

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.

(Read full post)

L.A. South: Five games to see live

October, 12, 2011
League play kicks off with a bang. As part of our running feature, here are five of this week’s must-see games in south Los Angeles County:

[+] EnlargeChaiyse Hales
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comPoly QB Chaiyse Hales hopes to repeat his performance of a year ago against Lakewood.
No. 19 Lakewood vs. No. 6 Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium, Friday, 7 p.m.: When the final whistle blew last year, the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits gave coach Raul Lara the celebratory, icy Gatorade bath. He probably wouldn't mind a good soaking Friday night. The scoreboard keeper at the Vet might be busy. Poly (5-1, 2-0 Moore League) finally found its offensive rhythm last week, hanging 67 points on Jordan, and the Lakewood Lancers (5-1, 2-0) are averaging 45 points per game under first-year offensive coordinator Zach LaMonda, a former assistant coach at Servite. Jackrabbits senior quarterback Chaiyse Hales was the standout in last year's rivalry game, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another score.

No. 22 Alemany at No. 7 Bishop Amat, Friday, 7 p.m.: Poor defensive play is Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty's biggest concern heading into this one -- and for good reason. The Lancers (5-1) have allowed the most points (111) among Serra League teams this year. These two met for the league title in last season's finale -- Alemany (4-1) claimed the championship with a 38-30 win -- so you know the Lancers will be plenty motivated. "It's going to be a fight," Lancers senior running back Jalen Moore said after last week's 38-35 win at Venice. "The league is going to come down to the end, but I feel like we should be able to take it all way." The game will stream live on FOXSportsWest.com as part of the website’s Prep Zone platform.

Charter Oak vs. South Hills at Covina District Field, Friday, 7 p.m.: For now, the Sierra League appears to be a four-team race and these two are a part of that group. The Charter Oak Chargers are the favorites (4-1) but Friday's road game could get tricky given that the South Hills Huskies (3-2) aren't strangers to tight games. Four of their five contests have been decided by four points or less. Chargers defensive coordinator Roger Lehigh would like to contain tailback Jamel Hart, who has hit triple-digit rushing yards in every game this season. It all adds up to an intriguing league opener.

Damien at Claremont, Friday, 7 p.m.: This is the other marquee Sierra League matchup, though it could have been a headliner any other week. The Damien Spartans (4-1) are fresh off a win against a Pac-5 Division opponent, JSerra, and their only loss this season was to Bishop Amat, which entered the week ranked No. 7 by ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Claremont Wolfpack (4-1) are looking to avenge last year's loss. Quarterback Gabe Schaper looks to rebound after throwing two costly interceptions last week.

West Covina at Bonita, Friday, 7 p.m.: Will spectators be in for another epic? These two met twice in 2010. West Covina thumped Bonita in the first game, basically securing the Hacienda League championship behind Chris Solomon's spectacular running. They saw each other again in the Southeast Division title game, which the West Covina Bulldogs (5-1) won on a thrilling last-minute drive. The Bonita Bearcats (2-3), coming off a bye week, will have redemption on their minds.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

Look close, Long Beach Poly still has swagger

September, 21, 2011
Josiah BlandinBlair Angulo for ESPNLA.comJosiah Blandin and the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits still maintain their swagger despite some tough seasons by their standards.

Arrive at Veterans Stadium early enough and you'll hear rapper Snoop Dogg's ode to Long Beach Poly, his alma mater, loud and clear. It blares through the speakers as players, wearing brand-new uniforms provided by Snoop, bounce around the field in pregame warmups. The chorus is simple and catchy, to say the least:

Green and gold, together,
Lose to y'all? Never.
This eastside forever,
Long Beach Poly.

Some Poly players have the nearly five-minute-long track memorized, the others bob their heads as the beat builds between whistles and drills. Take one look around and you notice these Jackrabbits don't lack confidence. A pair of poor seasons in Long Beach -- a combined 15-8 record the last two years -- have done little to diminish their swagger.

"There's always something we've got to prove," senior receiver Richard Smith said.

Poly (3-0), the No. 2 team in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings, can make a loud statement Friday against powerhouse Mission Viejo, ranked No. 4. The Jackrabbits were dominated at home by the Diablos last season, 37-7, and coach Raul Lara hasn't let them forget it. He gathered his players after last week's 19-16 victory over visiting Narbonne, reminding them of last year's debacle.

Raul Lara
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comPoly coach Raul Lara says his team is all about defense until the offense gets things going.
This squad's psyche isn't damaged, though, largely because its strong defense gives them a chance against anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"This is Poly High School," Lara said. "Poly's all about defense ... until our offense gets really clicking."

Balance makes Poly's unit difficult to scheme against. Looking to run between the tackles? You'll have to consider double-teaming senior defensive lineman Alonzo Williams, who is a handful up front. Planning to attack the edges? Physical linebackers Salamo Fiso and Matthew Rowe, both committed to Arizona State, are relentless in pursuit. Thinking about throwing the ball? Good luck against ASU-bound Randall Goforth, who has the speed and quickness to match up against the other team's best receiver.

Yet, in team sports especially, talent isn't enough.

Doubts about the Jackrabbits -- and whether or not they're truly back to elite status -- stem from their offensive struggles. And it isn't because of a shortage of weapons. Senior quarterback Chaiyse Hales had 18 touchdown passes last season and the ASU-bound tandem of Smith and Josiah Blandin are more-than-capable options at receiver. The ground attack has shown promise, too, with junior running backs Manusamoa Luuga and Gerard Wicks combining for more than 160 yards rushing per game so far.

For Lara, the challenge is getting the most from all facets in time for the Pac-5 Division playoffs. The defense appears be ready, the offense is a bit behind.

"Our defense goes really hard in practice," Smith said. "I expect them to stop teams all the time."

Friday night deep in Orange County, Lara and his 'Rabbits will get a better idea of how much they've improved. This much we do know: Poly has no troubles in the confidence department.

It's still green and gold, together.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

ESPNLA prep football Top 25: Week 3

September, 19, 2011
Alemany and Mater Dei were the only ranked teams to lose last week, so there aren't any newcomers to the latest ESPN Los Angeles prep football 25. There are six matchups between ranked teams this week, making for an intriguing slate of games as nonleague action winds down across the Southland. Here are our rankings heading into Week 3:

1. Servite (3-0)
Cody Pittman had 230 passing yards -- 147 going to favorite target Sam Hunt. But not all went well for the Friars, who will be without running back Charlie Etiaki (collarbone) for over a month. Last week: Beat La Habra, 24-16. Next: vs. Edison at Huntington Beach HS, Fri., 7 p.m.

2. Long Beach Poly (3-0)
The crowd's exhale at Veterans Stadium was clearly audible after the Jackrabbits survived a late charge by a City Section favorite Friday night. Coach Raul Lara had his defense to thank. Last week: Beat Narbonne, 19-16. Next: at Mission Viejo, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

3. Santa Margarita (3-0)
Ryan Wolpin carried 20 times for 133 yards and scored four touchdowns, and the Eagles picked off four passes to beat a neighboring school for the second straight week. Last week: Beat Trabuco Hills, 35-14. Next: at Carson, Fri., 7 p.m.

4. Mission Viejo (2-1)
The Diablos were obviously glad to be back in town following their humbling trip to New Jersey. Alex Bridgford, Jahleel Pinner and D.J. Wilson got the explosive offense back on track. Last week: Beat La Quinta, 47-21. Next: vs. Long Beach Poly, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

5. St. Bonaventure (2-0)
Give the Seraphs credit for not lollygagging through their Marmonte League opener. They could have easily overlooked Royal, instead setting their sights on this week's highly anticipated game. Last week: Beat Royal, 59-0. Next: at Oaks Christian, Fri., 7 p.m.

6. Corona Centennial (1-1)
There's no questioning the Huskies' heart, that's for sure. Hayden Gavett led a late charge to erase two-touchdown deficit, helping Centennial avoid what would have been a demoralizing 0-2 start. Last week: Beat Mater Dei, 28-20. Next: vs. Chaparral, Fri., 7 p.m.

7. Crespi (3-0)
Serra League coaches might have been jumping for joy after the graduation of Kenny Stenhouse, but Cody Cordell might cause some headaches this fall. The junior threw for five touchdowns in Fresno. Last week: Beat Clovis West, 42-28. Next: at Palisades, Fri., 7 p.m.

8. Oaks Christian (1-1)
Sophomore Brandon Dawkins threw the ball only six times in his varsity debut but half went for scores. Ishmael Adams added 121 rushing yards to help the Lions bounce back from their season-opening loss. Last week: Beat Agoura, 50-11. Next: vs. St. Bonaventure, Fri., 7 p.m.

9. St. John Bosco (3-0)
As expected, the Braves are spreading the ball around on offense, averaging nearly 38 points through three games. Cal-bound Bryce Treggs either beats defenses by himself or serves as a decoy. Last week: Beat Santa Fe, 51-0. Next: vs. Loyola at L.A. Valley College, Fri., 7 p.m.

10. Alemany (2-1)
In the biggest shocker so far, the Warriors blew a 14-point lead on the road Friday and lost, snapping their 15-game regular-season winning streak. The schedule doesn't get easier, either. Last week: Lost to J.W. North, 36-35. Next: at Chaminade, Fri., 7:30 p.m.

(Read full post)

L.A. South: The Top 10

September, 18, 2011
The top seven teams held their ground in our latest south Los Angeles County rankings. Defending Mid-Valley Division champion Monrovia fell off after losing to rival Arcadia, opening the door for a newcomer from the Western Division. Our top three teams hit the road Friday, so there could be movement next week. (Note: Last week's rankings are in parentheses.)

1. (1) Long Beach Poly (3-0)
The Jackrabbits bent but didn't break, holding on against a gritty City Section contender. Afterward, coach Raul Lara stressed how important it was to maintain the momentum they've built. Last week: Beat Narbonne, 19-16. Next: at Mission Viejo, Friday.

2. (2) St. John Bosco (3-0)
Senior quarterback Rene Medina threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and Royce Moore had 150 yards rushing in a rout. Now, the Braves and their high-powered offense hit the road. Last week: Beat Santa Fe, 51-0. Next: vs. Loyola at L.A. Valley College, Friday.

3. (3) Bishop Amat (2-1)
Talk about bouncing back. Playing big, bad Servite seems to have paid immediate dividends. Senior tailback Jalen Moore broke out for 303 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Last week: Beat La Mirada, 49-13. Next: at Damien, Friday.

4. (4) Carson (1-1)
Rested and refocused following a humbling loss to Long Beach Poly, the Colts begin the latter half of their rigorous nonleague schedule. The bye might have come at the right time for coach Elijah Asante's bunch. Last week: Idle. Next: vs. Santa Margarita, Friday.

5. (5) Lakewood (2-1)
The "Milk Bucket" trophy stays in Lakewood for at least another year, as the Lancers came back from a halftime deficit to beat their rivals from the north. Brock Dale threw for three scores. Last week: Beat Mayfair, 42-29. Next: vs. Leuzinger, Friday.

6. (6) Narbonne (1-1)
Dual-threat quarterback Troy Williams had only 102 passing yards and eight on the ground, and the Gauchos still nearly pulled off a shocker at Veterans Stadium. Last week: Lost to Long Beach Poly, 19-16. Next: at Tesoro, Thursday.

7. (7) Serra (2-1)
The young Cavaliers overcame the absence of Anterio Bateman (ankle) and Raymond Ford (ankle), with tailback Ronnie Vaughn shouldering a heavier load. Sophomore Jalen Greene keeps showing progress at quarterback. Last week: Beat Mira Costa, 33-0. Next: at Banning, Friday.

8. (10) Charter Oak (3-0)
This offense is supercharged. Senior quarterback Travis Santiago accounted for six touchdowns, throwing for 336 yards on 18 of 24 passing and adding 72 rushing yards. Last week: Beat Esperanza, 54-28. Next: vs. Rancho Cucamonga, Friday.

9. (8) West Covina (2-1)
More proof the Bulldogs are more than just a one-man team. Top player Chris Solomon (ankle) isn't 100 percent but it didn't matter, as Jimmy Frazier ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns. Last week: Beat South Hills, 35-33. Next: vs. Glendora, Friday.

10. (NR) St. Paul (2-0)
The Swordsmen showed why they're ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Western Division poll, steamrollering a helpless Norwalk team to the tune of nearly 300 yards rushing. Last week: Beat Norwalk, 48-6. Next: at Garfield, Friday.

Dropped out: Monrovia (9)

Five more, in alphabetic order: Cathedral, Claremont, Crenshaw, Gahr, St. Francis.

Agree or disagree with the "L.A. South" top 10? Did your favorite school get snubbed? Leave a comment on this post or contact ESPNLosAngeles.com preps writer Blair Angulo directly on his Twitter page.

Football: No. 2 Long Beach Poly 19, Narbonne 16

September, 16, 2011

LONG BEACH -- The Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits dodged a pair of bullets Friday night. Actually, they were more like missiles.

Narbonne quarterback Troy Williams' desperate, final-minute heaves fell incomplete and Poly, the No. 2 team in the ESPN Los Angeles Top 25 football rankings, escaped with a 19-16 intersectional victory at Veterans Stadium. The loss could have been disastrous for Poly's psyche heading into next week's highly anticipated meeting with Orange County powerhouse Mission Viejo.

"Obviously, when you're trying to win the game and it seems like the momentum has shifted on the other team's side, you always get a little worried," Poly coach Raul Lara said. "But I've been doing this now 21 years. I don't panic anymore. It's just like, 'Kids, c'mon, we've got to execute.' "

Narbonne nearly pulled off the shocker. With about 45 seconds remaining and facing a third and long, Williams rolled right and launched from midfield. Receiver Greg Clark got behind Randall Goforth, dove for the ball and, for a moment, had possession before it bounced out of his hands. Williams tried again on fourth down but it wasn't nearly as close.

"We could have easily won," Gauchos coach Manual Douglas said. "It would have been nice had it worked."

Poly (3-0) took a 19-14 lead on a two-yard touchdown pass from Chaiyse Hales to tight end Bradford Carter late in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits purposely took a safety with less than two minutes remaining to make it 19-16.

Poly zoned in on Williams, one of the top junior prospects in the area, and tried to contain him as much as possible. The strategy worked, as Williams threw for 162 yards on 11 of 23 passing to go along with only eight rushing yards. Williams was dropped for a loss nine times, this after torching Palos Verdes for 343 total yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening win for Narbonne (1-1) a week earlier.

"We just had a game plan against him," Poly linebacker Matthew Rowe said.

(Read full post)

Football: No. 4 Long Beach Poly 38, No. 8 Carson 18

September, 9, 2011
LONG BEACH -- It was supposed to be an early season showdown between two of the premier programs the Southland had to offer. Carson and Long Beach Poly on Friday night at Veterans Stadium had all the makings of one of those classic nonleague encounters.

The hype, believe it or not, lived up to the advanced billing. For the better part of the first half, that is. The Jackrabbits proved to be far too talented thereafter. They imposed their will in the second half and ended up with a rather impressive 38-18 victory over a Colts.

“We made some adjustments at halftime and were a different team the rest of the game,'' Poly coach Raul Lara said. “We did what we needed to do to win this thing. That's what good teams do and I think we proved that we were the better team out there tonight.''

The biggest adjustment came on defensive for the Jackrabbits.

Darreus Rogers gave Poly (2-0), No. 4 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings, problems throughout the first half. The senior receiver, who has committed to nearby USC, had 10 receptions for 192 yards and pair of touchdowns for in the opening 24 minutes of play.

As a result, the Colts (1-1), No. 8 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com poll, trailed by six points at the break. Carson, however, had difficulty to finding Rogers after that.

The Jackrabbits secondary, Randall Goforth in particular, did a good job of limiting Rogers the rest of the way. He had two catches for 18 yards in the third and fourth quarters.

All told, Rogers had 12 grabs for 210 yards and the two scores.

(Read full post)

Football: No. 4 Long Beach Poly

August, 29, 2011
With regard to the No. 1 team in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings, plenty of consideration was given to Long Beach Poly. The roster, after all, is absolutely loaded with talent. This group is set up for success. You'll find a college-bound player at most every important position.

Then again, what else is new? The Jackrabbits are seemingly always stacked.

Looking good off the field, on paper as they sometimes say, and delivering a finished product on the field are two different stories. Nothing is given, Long Beach Poly must prove itself.

Here's a closer look at the Jackrabbits.

Team: Long Beach Poly

Coach: Raul Lara, 11th year.

2010 Record: 8-3, lost in first round of CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.

Returning starters: 13 total. Seven on offense. Six on defense

Key players on offense: WR Richard Smith (Arizona State), WR Josiah Blandin (Arizona State), WR Randall Goforth (Arizona State), QB Chaiyse Hales, TE Bradford Carter.

Key players on defense: LB Matthew Rowe (Arizona State), Salamo Fiso (Arizona State), LB Jeremy Lutali, DL Jason Fao, DB Jeff Turley, DB David Price.

Difference maker: All the pressure is on Hales, whether he likes it or not. The 5-foot-10, 200-plus pound senior has loads of talent surrounding him, namely three Division I caliber receivers to catch his passes. When it comes to getting the job done, there should not be any excuses here, especially if his offensive line holds up. Hales appears poised for a breakout effort.

Newcomers: WR John Smith, WR Thomas Tucker.

Not to be missed: at Mission Viejo, Friday, Sept. 23. This nonleague showdown with the Diablos, who figure to be ranked among the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 10 programs at the time, is the final tuneup for the Jackrabbits before the embark on Moore League play. A victory will provide a much-needed boost of momentum, perhaps enough to propel a prolonged postseason run.

Coach's comment: “We started to re-evaluate things around here recently. It was something that needed to be done because we've had some of our seasons end earlier than we would have liked. We think we fixed the problems. We changed the atmosphere. Everyone is more committed now. The kids have responded and that's a good thing because we're setting the bar high.''

Final analysis: It's difficult to imagine opponents being able to contain Smith, Blandin and Goforth for a sustained period of time. At some point, odds are, one of the wideouts is going to get loose and make a game-changing play. With that type of threat on the offensive side of the ball, the Jackrabbits figure to have a chance of winning each game they are in once the fourth quarter rolls around. If the defense holds up its end of the bargain, Long Beach Poly could contend for a title.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

This way to Sacramento

August, 12, 2011
One of the more interesting off-the-field storylines will be how well Long Beach Poly football fans travel to the team's season opener at Sacramento Grant. Is the community still backing their Jackrabbits like before, despite their recent struggles? Have a pair of disappointing, underachieving seasons affected support?

My guess is that fanfare hasn't slipped -- though coach Raul Lara's popularity did seem to waver at a few Poly games last season. The football team's official website has set up an information page for those interested in traveling to the state's capital. A fan/family bus will trail the team bus, with both leaving on the morning of Friday, Sept. 2. The Jackrabbits are scheduled to play Saturday at 8 p.m.

The highly anticipated game is a rematch of the 2008 CIF State Open Division championship, which Grant won 25-20 in come-from-behind fashion. Poly went 6-6 in 2009 and 8-3 last season, losing in the first round of the Pac-5 Division playoffs.

It promises to be a competitive matchup. The question is, how many Poly fans will be there to see it?

LA South: Long Beach Poly trio heading to Arizona State

April, 6, 2011
Attention Pac-10 Conference football fans: Arizona State just got a bit better and could be on the verge of getting much better in the near future.

The Sun Devils received a verbal commitment from wide receiver Josiah Blandin earlier this week. And it's worth mentioning that reports have been circulating about his teammates Randall Goforth and Richard Smith also pledging to Arizona State.

“Yes, Josiah is heading to Arizona State, I know that much,'' Poly coach Raul Lara said. “Now, I have not heard about Randall and Richard yet, not sure if they both ended up committing to Arizona State. I will find out tomorrow.''

Each player brings something different to the table. One of the things they all have in common is that they are juniors. In addition, Blandin, Goforth and Smith figure to play prominent roles for Poly once the season begins in early September.

At 6-foot-4, Blandin has the size most Division I schools covet on the outside. He had 14 receptions and a pair of touchdowns a season ago for Poly.

“Josiah is one of those big kids that gives you an added dimension on the offensive side of the ball,'' Lara said.

Goforth is more of a possession-type of receiver. When the Jackrabbits needed a first-down last year, they looked in his direction. He responded by averaging 17.5 yards per catch.

“Randall is very quick, a slasher who knows how to get himself open,'' Lara said.

Smith is the deep threat, a game-breaker. He led Poly in receptions (23), yards (597) and touchdowns (8) last season. Lara said that Smith reminds him of former Poly standout DeSean Jackson.

“Richard does some of the same things DeSean did for us back when we had him here. Richard is scary fast, if you miss a tackle on him, he's gone,'' Lara said.

Keep in mind, a verbal commitment is non-binding. Blandin can end up changing his mind and switch schools down the road, at any point. And if Goforth and Smith did, in fact, commit to Arizona State, they can also decide to play elsewhere in college.

For now, it appears as if Tempe is the destination.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

LONG BEACH -- Proper order has been restored -- at least if you're from Long Beach Poly.

Long Beach Poly redeemed last year's loss to Lakewood -- its first Moore League loss in 15 seasons -- with a resounding 27-14 upset of the No. 4 Lancers at Veterans Stadium on Friday night. Quarterback Chaiyse Hales rushed for a score and threw for two more, helping the No. 22 Jackrabbits regain bragging rights.

"This is the best feeling in the world," Hales said. "They took the Moore League title away from us and we planned on taking it away from them. We got it."

While Hales threw for 189 yards, tailback Keltain Malveaux took it to the touted Lakewood front line, piling up 94 yards rushing on 23 carries. It was boom, boom, pass for the Poly offense, which has apparently forgotten about the ugly losses to St. Bonaventure and Mission Viejo.

"We came in here expecting a dog fight and that's what we got," Malveaux said. "Like they say, when you get a dog and you beat him until he can't be beat no more, they just give up. We did that -- Poly."

Poly coach Raul Lara received the customary Gatorade bath at the conclusion. For Lakewood's Thadd MacNeal, it was a different story.

(Read full post)