Long Beach Poly quarterback Eban Jackson scampers out of the pocket against… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Heading into the Southern Section playoffs, Long Beach Poly Coach Raul Lara was unsure if his team was a legitimate title contender.
The Jackrabbits emphatically answered that question with a 40-25 victory over La Puente Bishop Amat on Friday night in a first-round Pac-5 Division playoff game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach.
"We haven't redeemed ourselves just yet, but we played good enough to move on," said Lara, whose team has reeled off seven consecutive wins since losing its last three nonleague games. "It was Poly football — run, go play-action when we need it and play physical on defense."
Gerard Wicks owes his offensive linemen lunch but he'll gladly treat them after rushing 17 times for 223 yards and three touchdowns, the last a 75-yarder that gave Poly a 33-17 lead with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We saw that the Notre Dame guy [Khalfani Muhammad] ran on them last week, so I knew I could do the same," said Wicks, who was planning to take a trip to Pullman for tonight's game between Washington State and UCLA, both schools he is considering. "Bishop Amat likes to blitz the gap, so my plan was to bounce to the outside where I could use my speed."
Manusamoa Luuga added 175 yards in 18 carries as the Jackrabbits amassed 462 yards on the ground.
Poly took its first lead on Wicks' 64-yard run with 8:16 left in the second quarter and went ahead 27-17 when quarterback Tai Natani Tiedemann scrambled 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:01 left in the first half.
The Jackrabbits (8-3) will be underdogs at undefeated Mission Viejo in the quarterfinal round next week, but Wicks looks forward to the challenge.
"We lost to them last year and we've never beaten them in our history, so we'd like to change that," Wicks said. "We're a better team than we were earlier in the season. We're playing together and our confidence is much higher."
Bishop Amat (7-3-1) took a 7-0 lead on the first play from scrimmage when Anthony Camargo intercepted a Tiedemann pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
Tiedemann completed 4 of 10 passes for 36 yards and rushed for 59 yards. He started at quarterback over Eban Jackson, but Lara said that, for all positions, whoever performs better in practice will play against Mission Viejo.
Later, Dionza Blue caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Koa Haynes on fourth down to give the Lancers a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter.
Haynes completed 20 of 30 passes for 315 yards.
Jason Fao scored Poly's final touchdown on a one-yard plunge late in the fourth quarter.
Bishop Amat drove 69 yards in the final minute and a half and Rene Carillo closed the scoring on a one-yard run with 22 seconds left.