Long Beach Poly New Monarch of Division I
Long Beach Poly’s football team made a convincing public statement Saturday night.
The Jackrabbits won the Southern Section Division I championship and put the finishing touches on a perfect season by defeating defending champion Santa Ana Mater Dei, 28-25, before 14,121 at the Coliseum.
The victory, which ended Mater Dei’s 27-game win streak, makes Long Beach Poly the first public school to win the section’s largest division since 1993, and only the second since 1989.
Junior quarterback Chris Lewis completed 11 of 16 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns for Long Beach Poly (14-0), which won its first title since 1985, when the Jackrabbits shared the Big Five Conference championship with Huntington Beach Edison.
Senior running back Herman Ho-Ching gained 69 yards in 13 carries, caught two passes for 98 yards and scored three touchdowns against a Mater Dei defense that was giving up only 9.6 points a game.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to get here and we did it by beating Mater Dei,” said Ho-Ching, who clinched the victory when he recovered an on-side kick with 1:40 left and returned it to the Mater Dei four. “They were the best. Now we’re the best. You better believe it.”
Long Beach Poly, which lost to the Monarchs, 42-13 in last year’s semifinals, beat Mater Dei (13-1) with the quick-strike, big-play attack that characterized their other playoff victories over Fountain Valley, Redlands and Loyola.
Trailing, 17-14, at halftime, Poly took the second-half kickoff and scored on its fourth play from scrimmage on a 32-yard screen pass from Lewis to Ho-Ching. The two also combined for a 66-yard scoring play on a screen pass in the first half.
Mater Dei went three and out on the ensuing possession and Long Beach Poly wasted no time taking advantage.
On Poly’s first play from its 24, Lewis dropped back and passed to Andre Cyrus along the right sideline. Cyrus turned upfield and ran to the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown that gave the Jackrabbits all they would need.
Mater Dei running back Mike McNair rushed for 151 yards in 31 carries and scored two touchdowns, but he did most of his damage in the first half. Monarch quarterback John Leonard completed only eight of 24 passes for 97 yards.
Mater Dei’s Kevin Mitchell scored on a one-yard run with 1:48 left, and caught a two-point conversion pass from Leonard to pull Mater Dei within 28-25. But Ho-Ching ended the threat when he recovered the on-side kick.
“I commend Poly. They did it with the same guys that they had all year,” Mater Dei Coach Rollinson said. “We have to go back and lick our wounds, put the race car away and rest up. But we’ll be back.”
Leonard’s punt on Mater Dei’s first possession put the ball at the Long Beach nine-yard line. After an incomplete pass and two short runs, Poly snapped the ball out of the end zone for a safety.
The Jackrabbits stopped Mater Dei’s ensuing possession after the free kick, but Leonard kept them pinned in their own territory when he punted to the two. A 24-yard completion from Lewis to Kareem Kelly gave Poly some breathing room, and three plays later, Ho-Ching took a screen pass from Lewis, cut back and raced 66 yards to give Poly a 7-2 lead.
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* Division I: Long Beach Poly 28, Mater Dei 25
* Division V: Santa Margarita 55, Tustin 42
* Division VII: Bloomington 36, Yucaipa 20
* Division IX: Mira Costa 28, Monrovia 14
* Division X: Moorpark 28, St. Monica 6