LAKEWOOD/POLY PREVIEW: Lancers’ O Vs. Rabbits’ D • Long Beach Post

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The hype starts here—we’re just one day away from this year’s Moore League Super Bowl, the annual matchup between Long Beach Poly and Lakewood that seems to dwarf all other games in terms of intensity, attendance, and of course, pre-game verbiage.

We know you know all the numbers: Poly hasn’t lost a league game since 1994, with 80 consecutive wins.  You have to go back even farther, to 1982, to find the last time a Lancers squad knocked off the ‘Rabbits.  This year they’ll try to get it done in front of a crowd likely to reach into 10,000-plus territory at Vet’s, on Friday at 7:30pm.  And since we know you’re sick of all the hype, we’re going to shove all the other stuff aside and focus for a bit on what this game really is: a contest between the two best football teams in the city for the last several years.  Today, we break down what you can expect when Lakewood’s offense is on the field, and Poly’s defense; yesterday we did the reverse, which you can read about by CLICKING HERE.

Lakewood’s Offense

The biggest key for Lakewood’s spread offense is the passing game, but not the big throws from Jesse Scroggins to guys like Kevin Anderson.  The key is the short passes and screens to guys like Chris Davis, Ron Lewis and a trio of good pass-catching running backs. 

Scroggins has performed as advertised so far (1024yds, 18TD, 1INT, 66% comp) and it has a lot to do with the protection up front.  The front five— Oliver Robinson, Ray Villanueva, Kelly Harpham, Eric Wright and Theo Sheridan— lines up at a 6’1” 250lbs average. They have kept Scroggins’ jersey relatively clean while playing their part in the 800 yards rushing for the Lancers.  The time in the backfield has been split between three very good, and very different running backs in #26 Alley Long, #3 Rashad Wadood and #1 Terrance Woods.  Long (38 carries for 298 yards) is the most versatile back and blocks very well.  Wadood (32 for 243) has deceptive speed and can get lost in the pile up, then use his fresh legs to bounce it outside.  Woods (22 for 206) missed some time because of an injury during the Crenshaw game, but he had one heck of a run in that game (1:47) that has the Lancers excited he’s healthy again.

We said the key was the short passing attack, but really it’s the YAC (Yards After Catch).  If the line can give Scroggins time— and he takes more three step drops than five step drops— he’s going to find his talented group of receivers.  That is almost a given.  We saw it last year in the 2008 CIF Semi-Final between these two teams, and this is nearly the same offense.  The key is what those receivers can do with the ball against a Poly defense and a secondary that’s been getting better every week. 

Of course, don’t be surprised if the “play of the game” is when one those defensive backs crashes a short rout to support and Scroggins airs it out for Anderson.  If that happens, the Lancers plan is working to perfection.

Poly’s Defense

The biggest key for Poly on defense is to stop the passing game.  Lakewood throws to set up the run, and if the ‘Rabbits can get an effective pass rush and some plays in the secondary, they may be able to halt the Lancer juggernaut.  Fortunately for Poly, that’s where their strength has been so far this year—teams (including a banged up Jordan squad last week) have found more success running the ball than throwing against the ‘Rabbits.

Up front, Cory Waller has looked like the real deal as an edge pass rusher lately.  Jordan was putting two guys on him and he was still getting to the quarterback last week.  The 6’2″ 210 pound junior has a combination of speed and strength that makes him hard to wrangle, and Poly will need him to key the pass rush.  Andrew Suttles, a rare senior on Poly’s defense, could play a big role too—he has the ability to play on the edge, as well as at linebacker.  If you hear his name called a lot over the PA on Friday, chances are things are going well for Poly.

Aside from bringing pressure, the Poly defensive backs will have their hands full with a talented group of Lakewood receivers.  The one benefit for Poly is that Lakewood’s pass-catchers aren’t big, which would give them a big advantage against Poly’s relatively short unit.  It will be a battle of speed versus speed, which should be entertaining, although it certainly makes it hard to forecast a winner.

Last week against Jordan, Aric Bundage had two interceptions—on the year, the team has eight.  Bundage, Dabness Atkins, and Ryan Goforth need to get some turnovers in the air—particularly if Scroggins hangs a pass or two—to give their offense a few extra shots in this game.

In run support, DT Michael Teo needs to come up big (he’s the team’s leading tackler), and sophomore linebackers Fiso Salamo and Matt Rowe need to play good, disciplined football.  The two playmakers have three picks between them this year already, and it would help their secondary if they knocked some more down on Friday.

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