He’s looking forward to a fresh start at Long Beach Poly after going to The Opening later this summer in Oregon. At Poly, he’ll have the surrounding talent to lead the Jackrabbits in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, but will it be enough to make a run at the big three of St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and Corona Centennial? Go inside to see what he likes most about his new school, what he likes least and how the Elite 11 events can keep him improving.
Note: We’ll have additional articles on the three other California QBs who were at this year’s Elite 11 Finals that were held on June 2-4 at Redondo (Redondo Beach) coming soon. Look for similar coverage on Tanner McKee (Corona Centennial), Re-al Mitchell (St. John Bosco) and Jack Tuttle (San Marcos Mission Hills).
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It didn’t take long for quarterback Matt Corral to notice the differences between going to school at Oaks Christian of Westlake Village and Long Beach Poly.
“Poly is just so huge. I mean there are 5,000 people there every day,” said Corral, who transferred from Oaks Christian to Poly earlier this year. “I’ve seen something new there every day and I’ve still only seen about a quarter of it. Oaks is just a lot smaller.”
There’s also the vast difference in the socio-economic backgrounds of the families that send students to the two schools. Oaks Christian is exclusive with $1 million facilities and a place where movie stars and former NFL players have had their sons play. Poly has the greatest all-around high school athletic program in the history of the U.S., but it’s still in a working-class neighborhood and doesn’t have the kind of weight rooms or lockers that you’d see at Oaks Christian.“It’s kind of humbling to see their facilities at Poly because they aren’t good,” Corral said. “They have the same weight room as when DeSean Jackson was there (more than 10 years ago).”
Corral played as a freshman at Oaks Christian, then emerged as one of the top quarterbacks nationally in his class as a sophomore. In that season, he finished with 3,283 yards passing and 36 touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for 414 yards and five scores. Corral was edged out as State Sophomore of the Year by Newbury Park’s Cameron Rising and it also was shortly after that season that he committed to USC.
Last season, it wasn’t necessarily a step back for Corral, but there were so many high-scoring games that it almost made one dizzy just following the scores. The Lions, who went 11-1 in 2015 and didn’t lose until the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals, could only finish 8-3 last year. They were in games with final scores such as 65-55 vs. Chaminade of West Hills (win), 63-62 vs. Alemany of Mission Hills (win), 70-62 vs. Murrieta Valley of Murrieta (loss), 63-49 vs. Newbury Park (win). It ended early at 8-3 with a 35-28 loss to La Habra in the CIFSS D2 playoffs.
Although he played two less games than the season before, Corral still had 3,025 yards passing and 22 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He also rushed for 346 yards and seven scores.
Corral’s transfer was due to what he tweeted at the time was feeling that Oaks Christian is under too much control by people of wealth. It also was reported by some media outlets that he was involved in an incident with another student.
“I did not get expelled, nor did I punch anyone,” he tweeted. “I ran into problems at a school that is biased towards money. So if you have a lot of it, you run the school. No matter what the situation is. No matter what I say, I am wrong.”
In a later tweet, Corral said: “Leaving Oaks Christian is something that my family thought was the right thing to do.”
In deciding on Long Beach Poly, Corral and his family physically moved into the Long Beach Unified School District. Since there was a move and since the CIF no longer is going to bother with investigating whether any athlete switches schools for “athletically motivated” reasons, Corral is expecting to play beginning in Poly’s first game and won’t be sitting for 30 days like some transfers have had to do recently.
“Some of the guys on the team aren’t from the greatest backgrounds, but they play their hearts out,” Corral said. “It hasn’t taken long for it to feel like my team and just about everyone has welcomed me as a brother.”
On the day Corral was interviewed for this story, it was one day after Long Beach Poly’s girls track team won yet another CIF state title. He was informed that his new school has twice as many all-time CIF state titles in all sports than any other school in the state. Corral also knew that there were a lot of Poly players in the NFL, but he didn’t know that the Jackrabbits actually lead the nation in a list of schools with the most NFL alums.
Poly football in recent years, however, has fallen far behind the level of dominance that now seems reserved in Southern California only for the CIFSS big three of St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and Corona Centennial. With Corral coming to play quarterback and with major college recruit receiver Jalen Hall also transferring in from Hawkins of Los Angeles, Poly hopes to narrow that gap.
“I know we haven’t won a playoff game in three years, but I hope we do get to stay in Division I,” Corral said.
Since then, it has been released that the Jackrabbits will indeed stay in the CIFSS D1 bracket, but they were listed at No. 18 out of 18 schools.
“There were times last year when it got to the point where I felt I had to get a first down on every play,” Corral said. “There was so much pressure on the offense. Poly is known for defense and our secondary is really good. I really do think they’re as good as the secondaries at Bosco and Mater Dei.”
Before hooking up with Hall and three returning Poly receivers who are all major college talents — Camren McDonald, Kejuan Markham and Keon Markham — Corral still has some Elite 11 events to complete. He was one of 24 who recently came to Redondo Beach for the Elite 11 Finals and later was chosen as one of 12 who will be at Nike’s The Opening to be held in early July in Oregon.
“This has taught me more about the mental aspects of the game and how to overcome adversity,” Corral said. “It’s all the little stuff and it adds up. I feel if I can get that part better, then the sky’s the limit.”