The game was supposed to feature two of the best running backs in Southern California. Long Beach Poly had overcome a slow start this season to sweep through the Moore League behind the running of Leonard Russell.
Colton had finished third in the Citrus Belt League behind the running of George Hemingway.
Based on Friday night's performances in the first round of the Big Five Conference Southern Section playoffs, the running back matchup proved to be a draw. But the game itself was almost a rout as Colton beat Long Beach Poly, 40-28, before 5,000 fans at Long Beach Wilson High.
Colton is 8-3. Long Beach Poly finished the season 7-3.
"We have a lot of good players," Colton Coach Robin Luken said before the game. "When we were scoring all those points during the regular season, sure Hemingway was getting his two touchdowns a game. But someone else was scoring the others."
On this night, it was fullback Daryl Wingate who scored three touchdowns. Wide receiver/defensive back Ray Aldama scored twice on a 35-yard pass and a 60-yard run after recovering a fumble. Jose Nunez kicked two field goals, including a 46-yarder in the third quarter that gave the Yellowjackets a 34-14 lead.
Hemingway, a 6-3, 230-pound senior who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, finished with 21 carries for 96 yards. Russell, a 6-2, 205-pound senior who had 1,138 during the season, gained 102 yards in 14 carries.
"We didn't think we would be able to put four long drives together against Poly," Luken said after the game. "We knew that we needed to cause some turnovers and have some shorter drives that would allow us to score quickly."
In the first half, Long Beach Poly didn't give Colton much of a chance to show its ball-control offense. Instead, Poly simply gave Colton the ball twice inside the 20-yard line, which helped Colton jump to a quick lead it never came close to relinquishing.
Poly's first error occurred on its first possession after the opening kickoff. The Jackrabbits were attempting to punt from their 34-yard line, but the snap from center rolled through punter Todd Nichols' legs. When Nichols finally got control of the ball and attempted to kick, it was blocked by Colton's Socorro Hernandez and recovered by Scott Denny on the 15.
Two plays later, Wingate scored from 11 yards out to give Colton the lead.
On the first play of its next possession, Poly quarterback Michael Carter, who finished 19 of 30 for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns, had a pass intercepted by Anthony Luna, who returned the ball 20 yards to the Poly 15.
Four plays later, Nunez kicked a 28-yard field goal to put Colton ahead, 10-0, with 4:30 left in the first quarter.
Long Beach Poly finally got its act together on its next posession. The Jackrabbits started on their 33, and seven plays later, flanker Rufus Young scored from 16 yards out on an inside reverse.
Colton countered with an eight-minute scoring drive. The Yellowjackets went 70 yards in 14 plays, mostly behind the running of Hemingway, who gained 53 yards during the drive. Wingate scored his second touchdown on a five-yard run that put Colton ahead, 17-7.
Poly answered with a 63-yard drive that was capped again by Young--this time with a 31-yard run off another inside reverse.
Colton's final score of the half came on a 35-yard pass from quarterback Rich Gomez to Aldama.