For weeks, Long Beach Poly players have heard the same thing, read the same thing, probably dreamed the same thing: Lakewood defense this, Lakewood defense that.
Lakewood’s defense was as good as advertised on Friday, but it was Poly’s defense and special teams that provided a closeout sale on the Moore League title.
Poly, ranked No. 4 in the Southland by The Times, clinched its 13th consecutive league championship with a 22-9 victory over fifth-ranked Lakewood.
With the victory, Poly could enter the Southern Section Division I playoffs in two weeks as the top-seeded team.
An overflow crowd at Lakewood witnessed the host Lancers (8-1, 4-1) hold Poly’s typically high-powered offense to 141 yards. But Poly (8-1, 5-0) made the better use of its opportunities.
Mike Skvor, who had made one of his two field-goal attempts this season, was successful from 40, 39 and 32 yards for a 9-3 lead.
Skvor said he knew months ago he would play an important role in the outcome, and that he would need to be on his game.
“That set in at the beginning of the season,” the senior said. “I knew they had a great defense, and it showed.”
After winning the battle of field position -- Skvor’s punt pinned Lakewood at the one-yard line -- the Jackrabbits drove 21 yards for their first touchdown, Raymond Sholes catching a pass over the middle from Theo Scott for a 14-yard touchdown with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
“That opened it up for us,” Poly Coach Raul Lara said. “It deflated Lakewood and it pumped us up.”
Lakewood outgained Poly, racking up 206 yards, but 162 came on its final two drives. Lakewood even held Poly’s primary offensive threat, DeSean Jackson -- whose 33-yard touchdown catch with 1:45 to go last year gave Poly a 14-10 win -- without a reception. It wasn’t good enough.
With its victory, Poly extended its winning streak to 54 games in the Moore League. Lakewood was in position to win its first outright title since 1974.
Lakewood drove 96 yards for its only score, a two-yard sneak by Justin Wheeler with 1:28 remaining. But Jurray Casey returned the on-side kick 49 yards, to the Lakewood six, and Ryan Scott scored from one yard with 27 seconds remaining.
Lakewood’s John Gillett, who was six for six on field goals going into the game, missed from 28 and 42 yards before connecting from 32. Two of those kicks were set up after Lakewood defensive backs Terrell Cole and Danny Hernandez intercepted passes.