Football: The incredible season of Long Beach Poly
There is no one on this planet who follows high school football in Southern California who would have predicted that Long Beach Poly would defeat Mission Viejo, St. John Bosco and Mater Dei in consecutive weeks to win the Pac-5 Division championship.
Of course, the joke is on us. Yes, Poly lost to Narbonne, 56-0, on Sept 7. Poly lost to Gardena Serra, 20-12, on Aug. 31. And Poly lost to Bakersfield, 29-6, on Sept. 14.
But instead of pouting, complaining and making excuses, the Jackrabbits stayed together, listened to their coaches, got better every week and have now pulled off one of the greatest comeback stories in Southern California high school football history.
Coach Raul Lara, who receives more nasty comments on message boards than any prep coach in any sport, has given his players a gift they will remember for the rest of their lives. It's about never giving up, never losing perspective and never stop working toward achieving a goal.
I was there after the Narbonne debacle. A proud Poly football program had hit rock bottom. But there was Lara talking to his players in a huddle about regrouping and moving forward. There was Lara calmly answering questions afterward, admitting his team stunk and improvement was needed. He and his coaching staff went to work. And what a finish it was on Saturday night, when the Jackrabbits defeated Mater Dei, 35-17, to win their 19th Southern Section title.
Lara said earlier in the week that everything had been going the Jackrabbits' way. So when it rained and made for perfect muddy-field conditions for Poly's revitalized running game at Angel Stadium, it was a clear message somebody had Poly's back.
What a remarkable season for the players, coaches and fans.
-- Eric Sondheimer
Photo: Running back Gerard Wicks is interviewed after Poly won the Pac-5 Division championship on Saturday night in Anaheim. Credit: Steve Galluzzo / For The Times