Long Beach Poly High's football team opened the season ranked No. 1 in one national poll and second in several others. The Jackrabbits showed why Friday night against Westchester with a performance featuring flashes of brilliance that overshadowed requisite first-game mistakes.
Poly scored on its first three possessions and took a 28-point halftime lead en route to a 37-0 intersectional victory before 5,500 at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
Poly (1-0) was playing its first game under Coach Raul Lara, a longtime Jackrabbit assistant who took over after Jerry Jaso left to become an assistant at Long Beach City College.
The two-time defending Southern Section Division I champions also were playing for the first time since the death of Kirk Jones, a former Poly player and Jackrabbit assistant who died of a heart attack during the offseason.
Senior running back Hershel Dennis, who usually wears No. 34, donned No. 22--Jones' high school number--to honor the late coach. Dennis, regarded as one of the top running backs in the nation, rushed for 126 yards in 21 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Quarterback Brandon Brooks completed six of 10 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a touchdown.
Poly's defense, featuring a massive defensive line and ultra-quick secondary, limited Westchester (0-1) to 52 yards and forced two turnovers, a solid start with an Oct. 6 game looming against Concord De La Salle and its national-record 113-game winning streak.
Poly, however, was penalized 12 times for 102 yards.
"For a first game we did OK," Lara said. "But we still have areas we need to work on, especially penalties."
Poly forced Westchester to punt on the game's first possession, then wasted no time establishing its dominance.
On first down at the Poly 37, Brooks faked a handoff, dropped back and passed to sophomore wide receiver Derrick Jones for a 63-yard touchdown.
On Westchester's ensuing possession, Jackrabbit cornerback Tyrone Jenkins intercepted a pass thrown by Comet quarterback Brian Johnson, giving Poly the ball at the Westchester 33. Six plays later, Brooks scored on a two-yard sneak. and Poly led, 14-0, with 6 minutes 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Westchester gained 16 yards in four plays in its next possession before Poly defensive end Marcedes Lewis knocked the ball out of Johnson's hands for a fumble that was recovered by Junior Lemauu. Poly fullback John Williams scoried from four yards to cap a 39-yard drive to put the Jackrabbits ahead, 21-0.
Carson 29, Long Beach Jordan 19--Fullback Marcus McCall rushed for 138 yards in 20 carries and scored a touchdown for the visiting Colts (1-0), whose defense, led by junior defensive tackle Matthew Malele, held the Panthers (0-1) to 61 yards rushing.
Greg Chatman's 54 yard punt return in the second quarter gave Carson a 22-19 halftime lead.