The longest high school football season in California history comes to a close this weekend with the CIF state championship bowl games at the Home Depot Center. But Long Beach Poly hardly looks exhausted or in need of a break going into its 16th week of action.
The team has won 11 consecutive games since a 1-3 start, and its talented collection of juniors and sophomores are sending a clear message that the Jackrabbits will be a team to reckon with in 2013 and beyond.
First up is Friday's Division I championship game against Granite Bay (12-3) at 8 p.m. Granite Bay is known for its "fly" offense, which features repeated misdirection plays. The team rushed for 547 yards in a game two weeks ago.
Poly's defensive line, led by 6-foot-1, 255-pound junior Jason Fao, has been manhandling opposing blockers. If the Jackrabbits are able to break through and not be fooled by fakes, it could be a long night for Granite Bay.
"We've coached our tails off getting these guys coached up and ready to go, and I just love the way this group of kids has come together as a team defensively," defensive coordinator Jeff Turley said.
Fao, who has been on varsity since he was a freshman, doesn't get pushed around in the middle. Linebackers Caleb Turner and Omari Lyles have become solid tacklers. Linebacker Jayon Brown, who has committed to UCLA, has become a big-play defender. And the secondary, featuring sophomore Iman Marshall, junior John Smith and seniors David Price and Mathew Mitai, has been spectacular.
The magic board
Having sent more than 50 players to the NFL, Poly's football team is a must-stop destination for college recruiters, and the Jackrabbits have a board in the football office listing the names of players who have received official scholarship offers along with the names of the schools.
Seven players from this year's team are on the board and more are expected before signing day in February.
Bowl site decision
There are four bids to play host to the CIF state championship bowl games in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the winning bid could be announced this weekend, Ron Nocetti, CIF associated executive director, said Tuesday.
The finalists are Home Depot Center, Sacramento State, Sacramento City College and Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.
Home Depot has been host of the games since their inception in 2006. If the CIF chooses a site in Northern California, it would leave Southern California without a state championship event other than occasionally playing host to golf and girls' volleyball. Basketball is held in Sacramento, track in Clovis, wrestling in Bakersfield and Lemoore, and cross-country in Fresno.