Fittingly, a defensive play clinched Long Beach Poly High’s 15-0 victory Friday night over Wilmington Banning at Long Beach Veterans Stadium.
After all, the offenses sputtered for much of the game.
Lamont Morgan, a Jackrabbit cornerback, intercepted a pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to seal the intersectional victory for Long Beach Poly (1-1), ranked 16th by The Times.
“That was a huge play,” Poly Coach Jerry Jaso said. “He made a great break on the ball and a great pick. He’s a big-time corner.”
The play was the crowning blow to the Pilots (0-2), who gained only 76 yards in offense behind new starting quarterback Oliver McBride.
“We couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going on offense,” Banning Coach Ed Paculba said. “They ran an eight-man (defensive) front. And why not? They knew we couldn’t throw. They just attacked us.”
That Long Beach Poly led only 8-0 at the time of Morgan’s interception was the result of its offensive difficulties.
Running back Damien Murphy twice lost fumbles inside Banning’s five-yard line, ending Jackrabbit threats.
Long Beach Poly gained 155 yards in offense. Quarterback Robert Toler completed seven of 16 passes for 94 yards.
The Jackrabbits scored the only points of the first half on Arild Faraimo’s one-yard run early in the second quarter.
The touchdown was set up when Banning punter Ramiro Morales could not handle a bad snap and was tackled for a 21-yard loss. Long Beach Poly started from the Pilots’ 20.
After Faraimo’s touchdown, the Jackrabbits faked a kick on the extra point. Holder Jesse Johnson rolled to the right and completed a pass to Carlton Gravett for a two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
Banning showed little in the half. The Pilots had five times as many yards in penalties as in offense, 45-9.
Their only spark in the half came on their first possession, when running back Melvin Blue gained 35 yards on a third-and-18 play. But the run was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty.
Long Beach Poly’s offense was not much better, gaining only 63 yards in the half.
Jackrabbit running back John Flewellen led Poly with 40 yards in 12 carries.
McBride gained 41 yards in 11 rushes. He completed three of seven passes for 17 yards and had an interception.