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Croom, Long Beach Poly in Form

Division I: Back rushes for 168 yards, three touchdowns in top-seeded Jackrabbits' 52-0 victory over Huntington Beach.

November 21, 1998|MITCH POLIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Since early in the season, Long Beach Poly High running back Larry Croom has suffered from a nagging thigh injury.

But if there were any questions about his health heading into the Southern Section playoffs, he answered them in resounding fashion Friday night.

Croom, a senior, rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns in 12 carries for the top-seeded Jackrabbits in a 52-0 victory over Huntington Beach in the first round of the Division I playoffs at Long Beach Veterans Memorial Stadium.

He might have answered any lingering questions about his health midway through the second quarter when he danced his way past nearly the entire Huntington Beach defense on a 64-yard touchdown run.

That was the second touchdown of the night for Croom, who also scored on runs of 19 and 25 yards and played less than three quarters.

"I would have to say he's just starting to round into his old self," Long Beach Poly Coach Jerry Jaso said.

He will receive no argument from Huntington Beach, which had a difficult time keeping up with him or anyone else on the top-seeded and undefeated Jackrabbits (11-0).

Long Beach Poly scored on three of its first four possessions to take a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter, and the Oilers (6-4-1) never made it inside the Jackrabbit 30-yard line.

Poly, which has a 25-game winning streak, made a believer of Huntington Beach Coach Tony Ciarelli.

"They're good, they're disciplined and they're smart," he said. "This is the best team we've played this year."

For that matter, Ciarelli said the Jackrabbits are the fastest team he's ever seen.

"This is the fastest football team in the history of California," he said. "Nobody has that kind of speed."

Croom wasn't the only offensive player who caused problems for the Oilers.

Quarterback Chris Lewis, who is headed for Stanford next season, completed 10 of 15 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He has thrown for 34 touchdowns this season and has a state record of 98 in his career.

His favorite target was Samie Parker, who had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.

There was also the Jackrabbit defense, which limited the Oilers to 143 yards and forced three turnovers, including a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by Dennis Link in the third quarter.

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