Photos by Matt Cohn.
“I tell these guys all the time: You never know when it’s going to be your last play or your last game,” said Long Beach Poly High head coach Antonio Pierce before Friday night’s Moore League finale against Millikan.
Pierce’s words proved to be prophetic: After being forced to forfeit three League games due to an ineligible transfer player, being on the losing end of an envelope draw to determine the Moore League’s third CIF playoff berth and being passed over by the CIF for an at-large playoff spot, Poly fought every second during their last game of the season, culminating in a vindictive 70-3 victory over Millikan Friday night.
It was a heartbreaking end to a season that began for a talent-laden team motivated by ambitious goals. This is the first time the Jackrabbits have missed the CIF playoffs since 1979.
According to CIF rules, a player can transfer to a school and be eligible to play football there if he has established a residential address within that school’s jurisdiction for 60 days. After the player in question transferred to La Habra High School from Poly during the season, it was discovered that he and his family had given a fraudulent address to Poly when he had originally transferred in.
Poly, loaded with blue-chip talent, had nothing to gain from deceiving the Moore League about the seldom-used player. Nevertheless, his deception ruined Poly’s season. The Jackrabbits were angry Friday night, and it showed.
Poly quarterback Malik Henry put his impressive skills on display against Millikan.
Once Poly got untracked mid-way through the second quarter, they showed no mercy. Their size, speed and talent overwhelmed Millikan. At one point, having scored a touchdown to go up 44-3, the Jackrabbits elected to go for a two-point conversion, and they followed that up with an onside kick.
The game was a showcase for Poly’s quarterback, Malik Henry. His speed, arm and field vision were phenomenal. Scrambling out of the pocket and often throwing off the wrong foot, he was able to connect for five touchdown passes, including two perfect strikes to his Army All-American receiver Jack Jones. Jones’ best play, a long, zig-zagging punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, was called back.
Jackrabbit running back Aaron Shampkin ground out 66 tough yards and a pair of touchdowns, and 310-pound offensive/defensive lineman Emmanuel Fesili was instrumental in Poly’s domination of the trenches.
From left: Dick DeHaven’s grandson Brady, DeHaven’s son Brad, coach Dave Radford, and DeHaven’s son Brian.
It was a bittersweet Senior Night for the Rams, who fought gamely for four quarters. The versatile Anthony Carswell, playing his last game at Millikan, was called upon to play virtually the entire game, on offense, defense and special teams. He absorbed a ton of punishment but battled until the end, laying a vicious hit on a Poly player directly in front of the Jackrabbit bench with a couple of minutes to go.
One of the highlights for the Millikan family Friday night was the tribute to former Millikan head coach Dick DeHaven, who passed away in October. Members of DeHaven’s family were on hand as the field announcer read a beautiful tribute written by DeHaven’s coaching colleague Dave Radford.
Radford praised DeHaven’s great leadership skills and good humor, mentioned the two CIF championships (’77 and ’79) the two earned together, and said “Godspeed to the Dean of the Moore League, Dick DeHaven” as the legendary coach’s sons Brad and Brian released 15 blue and gold balloons into the night, one for each of DeHaven’s head coaching years.
This Friday the 13th will provide big challenges for the three Moore League playoff representatives: Wilson will host 8-2 Los Angeles Loyola, Lakewood will travel to Santa Ana to face old rival and perennial playoff contender Mater Dei (also 8-2), and Jordan must venture to Westlake Village to face 10-0 Oaks Christian.
Poly will have plenty of time to regroup, focus on next year’s efforts and think back on a football season that proved to be one of its most memorable—but not for the right reason.
- Millikan Rams taking the field for the last time this season.
- Millikan drum majors Kai Bauer (L) and Brandon Rhodes (R).
- Poly alum and 3-time Super Bowl winner Willie McGinest was on hand to support the Jackrabbits.
- Hard-working Millikan senior Anthony Carswell speaking with a trainer on the sidelines.
- Poly cheerleaders.
- Super-talented Poly standout Jack Jones, an Army All-American.
- Poly’s massive linemen warming before Friday night’s game.
- Offensive lineman Marvelous Lam Sam (#56) rallying the Jackrabbits after the game.
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