Long Beach Poly running back Gerald Wicks (23) ran hard, tough, and right over Clovis. He finished the game with 112 rushing yards. Teammate Manusamoa Lu'uga did much of the same, as he rushed for 97 yards. Photo by Jason Lewis
Once Long Beach Poly got it going, they ran their way right to this week's State Bowl at The Home Depot Center.
Sometimes in sports an extremely talented team just needs to figure it out.
Looking at Long Beach Poly high school's football team on the field, the eyeball test says that this team is loaded with college football Division I talent. But looking at them early in the football season, when they were sitting at 1-3, nobody would have thought that they would still be playing right now.
Since that poor start, when a lot of people wrote off their season, they have won 11 consecutive games, beaten some of the best teams in Southern California, they surprisingly won the Southern Section PAC-5 championship, and after defeating Clovis North high school in the Division I Regional finals, they are now playing in the State Bowl this Friday at 8 p.m. at The Home Depot Center.
It appears that they just needed to figure it out, and when they do get it right they look unstoppable. That was the case when they were down 7-0 and then tied at halftime 7-7 against North.
In the first half Poly's offense struggled as they were unable to get their passing game on track, and they only rushed for 38 yards. But they figured it out in the second half, as they went nearly exclusively to the running game, and they pounded out 21 unanswered points, winning the game 28-7.
When Poly switched to the wildcat formation, where the ball is snapped directly to a running back that is in the shotgun formation, they went to an extremely physical brand of football. They ran right at, over, and by North's defense.
In the fourth quarter, with North still in the game, Poly went on a 90-yard drive of mostly run plays, which ended with a with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Gerald Wicks.
"Their defense was tired and worn out from the run," Wicks said. "We just kept doing what we do best."
Poly closed out the game with another long, run dominated drive. They marched 82 yards in the closing moments of the game, with running back Manusamoa Lu'uga scoring the final touchdown.
Wicks said that he knew that the key for their victory from the offensive side of the ball was to keep running. Poly rushed for 178 yards in the second half and 216 for the game. Wicks rushed for 112 yards, and Lu'uga 97.
Poly's defense came up big all night. They limited Clovis' running game, and Poly's pass rush combined with great secondary play held Clovis to only seven points. When Clovis' scrambling quarterback was able to get away from Poly's relentless pass rush, he did not have anywhere to throw the ball, as Poly defensive backs had tight coverage downfield.
Poly is now one game away from being crowned State champs, and all they had to do was figure it out.
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