Friday SoCal Bowls: L.B. Poly punches ticket

Sophomore Tai Tiedemann's improvement as a starting quarterback has been just one reason why Long Beach Poly is such a different team from early in the season. The Jackrabbits won Friday 28-7 against Clovis North in the D1 South regional championship bowl game.

Sophomore Tai Tiedemann’s improvement as a starting quarterback has been just one reason why Long Beach Poly is such a different team from early in the season. The Jackrabbits won Friday 28-7 against Clovis North.

Jackrabbits start slow but beat Clovis North 28-7 and will now go for school’s first CIF state football title since 1919. Santa Fe Christian also earns CIF state bowl berth.

Writeups by Ronnie Flores, Mark Tennis
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Fans of Central Section football were curious which Long Beach Poly team their section’s Division I champions would be facing in Friday’s CIF Southern California Division I Regional Bowl Game.

Would it be the Poly team that nearly got shut out for the second consecutive game when 2011 Central Section champ Bakersfield waxed the Jackrabbits 29-6 in September? Or would it be the one that ran roughshod through the CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs?

For one half of this game, it looked like the Poly team that didn’t know its identity at the beginning of the season. In the second half, however, the Jackrabbits used their power running game to advance to their second state bowl game where they’ll face Granite Bay in next Friday’s Division I title contest at The Home Depot Center in Carson.

“I think this was a great wake-up call because after winning the (Southern Section) Pac-Five title, I think my team thinks they are just going to roll to state,” said Poly coach Raul Lara.

Both Manusamoa Luuga and Gerard Wicks went over 100 yards rushing for Poly. Wicks finished with 15 carries for 111 yards a touchdown while Luuga had a two-yard touchdown with 1:17 in the fourth quarter to ice the win.

Poly took a 14-7 lead with 8:20 remaining in the third quarter when senior Brock Meekelborg beat sophomore linebacker Hayden Haupt in the end zone on a 25-yard touchdown reception on 4th down and 14 to go. The Broncos never seriously threatened afterward.

Poly (12-3) came out flat on offense and even went to back-up quarterback Eban Jackson to find an offensive spark in the first quarter. The main ingredient that helped Poly, however, was three missed Clovis North field goals in the first half.

Clovis North (12-2) scored the first touchdown of the game on a four-yard run by sophomore Bolu Olorunfunmi, but the Broncos missed chip shots of 23 and 34 yards and the third was blocked by two-way Poly standout John “JuJu” Smith. With 9:28 in the second quarter, Smith hauled in a nine-yard fade route over two defenders for a score to tie the game at 7-7.

Clovis North was put in position for the third field goal attempt when Smith fumbled a punt return that the Broncos recovered, but he made a couple of big plays to make amends for the turnover, including a fourth down catch that kept alive a Poly 16-play, 90-yard scoring drive culminated by a two-yard Wicks scoring run.

“When I dropped the ball, it was big because it put them in the Red Zone,” Smith said. “When we came out here I was scared we’d be flat, then we turned it up. This week we’ll be playing another team we don’t know much about so we have to watch as much film as we can and come out as a team.”

Late heroics lead Santa Fe Christian past Rio Hondo

It took several big plays down the stretch, but for the third time in the last four years a team from the CIF San Diego Section’s Coastal League will be going for a CIF state bowl title next week.

Santa Fe Christian joined the club with a 30-28 triumph over Rio Hondo Prep of Arcadia in Friday’s CIF Division IV Southern California regional final played at Del Norte High in San Diego.

The Eagles (11-3) took the lead in the back-and-forth thriller with 2:20 left on a 1-yard run by Jerry Harper. This was followed by an interception with 1:15 left by Slater Howe that prevented hopes of Rio Hondo (13-2) re-gaining the lead.

According to the North County Times, Santa Fe Christian quarterback Hunter Vaccaro was the star of the night. He didn’t complete any passes, but rushed 12 times for 165 yards and two scores. He also had a 37-yard run late in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning touchdown.

At the Home Depot Center next Friday, the Eagles will face Central Catholic of Modesto, which isn’t far from Modesto Christian, the team that beat Coastal League member Francis Parker in a memorable 2009 CIF Division IV (called small schools then) state bowl game.

Bishop’s of La Jolla followed up Parker’s run in 2010 by going 14-0 and winning the CIF Division IV state crown with a win against Brookside Christian of Stockton.

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