LONG BEACH — It may have looked like it, but the Long Beach Poly High football team was not simply toying with Newport Harbor in Friday night's CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division first-round playoff game.
The Jackrabbits rotated their quarterbacks, seniors Nick Pope and Chaiyse Hales, alternating them in and out each quarter. This has just been part of the game plan most weeks for Coach Raul Lara's Jackrabbits.
Talk about a two-headed attack. Pope and Hales finished with nearly identical stats. Each passed for two touchdowns as Long Beach Poly rolled, 49-14, at Veterans Memorial Stadium, ending the Sailors' season.
Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley knew the Sailors (5-6) were big underdogs against No. 3-seeded Poly (10-1). After watching the Jackrabbits score touchdowns on their first six possessions of the game, he wouldn't bet against Poly winning its third Pac-5 title in five years.
Poly is ranked No. 9 in the state of California by Cal-Hi Sports.
"They're very athletic, and they're physical," Brinkley said. "They play great defense, there's no doubt about it. And offensively, they've got guys. Their quarterbacks threw the [heck] out of the ball tonight. [They were] very accurate, more accurate then we probably saw on film even. They threw the ball with velocity and very accurately.
"They've got a lot of tools, and they'll compete every week in this division."
The Sailors, making their third straight Pac-5 playoff appearance, were denied in the first round again. Newport Harbor still has not won a playoff game since 2007, when it beat Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks on the road in the first round before losing to the same Jackrabbits.
That game's final score was a bit closer, 35-14. This one got out of hand as Pope (nine of 14 for 144 yards) and Hales (eight of 13 for 171 yards) carved up the Sailors' secondary.
The primary beneficiary was senior receiver Richard Smith, who caught five passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
"It's motivation in a way," Hales said of the two-QB attack. "The less snaps you get, the better you want to do when you're in. I want to do good every second I'm in, because I don't know when I'll get pulled out or not."
The Sailors, down 42-0 late in the second quarter, did well to trim the deficit right before halftime. Senior Titus Hasson's 80-yard kickoff return to the Long Beach Poly 15-yard line set Newport Harbor up with its first good field position of the night. The Sailors capitalized on the next play, when senior quarterback Cole Blower found senior receiver Blake Bell on a touchdown pass.
The Jackrabbits went for it on fourth-and-one on their next possession, but a screen pass was stuffed by Stone Manoa and Hasson so the Sailors got the ball back on the Poly 40-yard line in the final minute. The Jackrabbits sacked Blower and caused a fumble, but Hasson alertly scooped it up and took it 46 yards to the house for another touchdown.
The Sailors were still down four touchdowns at halftime, but went off the field with a big round of applause from the Newport faithful in attendance.
"They could have rolled over, and they gave great effort all night," Brinkley said of his team. "They were just outmanned. Sometimes guys are just better than you, but the key is to do the best you can. I think that's what our guys did. They battled all the way through to the end, which is all we ask out of any of the guys we have any year."
The vast majority of Hasson's 57 rushing yards came on the fumble recovery. Aside from that play, the Sailors mustered just 40 yards of offense.
They did not register a first down in their first five possessions.
But Brinkley said the Sailors, who finished third in the Sunset League to clinch their fourth postseason appearance in five years, showed heart all year long.
"We've worked our way through some adversity," Brinkley said. "A lot of guys who have never played, first-year starters. For us to be in the playoffs, you know, this is the highest division in football. It's not like you're playing in a lower division. This [Pac-5] division of football is as good as any in the country, not just in the state of California. We'll battle. We're the smallest public school in this division, and for us to get in the playoffs and battle these guys?
"We look for effort, and if our kids give us effort then we're going to have some success."
Poly advances to the second round to play Santa Margarita, which defeated Bishop Amat, 45-21, in another first-round game Friday night.
Long Beach Poly 49, Newport Harbor 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 0 – 14 – 0 – 0 — 14
Poly 21 – 21– 0 – 7 — 49
LBP – R. Smith 28 pass from Pope (Wicks run), 8:44.
LBP – Luuga 8 run (run failed), 3:39.
LBP – Wicks 5 run (Hunt kick), 0:00.
LBP – R. Smith 42 pass from Hales (Hunt kick), 7:45.
LBP – Luuga 17 run (Hunt kick), 3:12.
LBP – R. Smith 40 pass from Hales (Hunt kick), 1:48.
NH – Bell 15 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 1:32.
NH – Hasson 46 fumble return (Ochoa kick), 0:14.
LBP – Prince 36 pass from Pope (Hunt kick), 10:10.
NH – Hasson, 9-57, 1 TD.
LBP – Luuga, 8-50, 2 TDs.
NH – Blower, 7-15-2, 29, 1 TD.
LBP – Hales, 8-13-0, 171, 2 TDs.
NH – Bell, 1-15, 1 TD.
LBP – R. Smith, 5-125, 3 TDs.