LONG BEACH -- If Long Beach Poly High didn't dig deep into its storied history, the Jackrabbits at the very least got serious and downright ornery while plowing Clovis North in the second half for a 28-7 victory Friday night in the CIF State South Division I Regional.
The Jackrabbits, ranked seventh in the state and No. 2 all-time in wins, delivered one big fourth-and-long touchdown pass, but otherwise deployed a power running attack while out of the Wildcat formation to outscore the Broncos 21-0 in the second half before about 6,000 fans at Long Beach City College's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The formation had running backs Manusamoa Luuga and Gerard Wicks take turns receiving direct snaps while motoring behind 6-foot-1, 250-pound fullback Jason Fao.
And the epitome of the aggression bridged the third and fourth quarters, when the Jackrabbits (12-3) -- champions of the Southern Section's coveted Pac-5 Division and a program that has sent a nation-best 51 players to the NFL -- marched 90 yards in 16 plays, the final a 2-yard scoring run by Wicks for a 21-7 lead.
Poly, a section 19-time champion which has won 11 straight, then virtually sealed it on Jordan Davidson's interception of a Christian Rossi pass with 8 minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the game.
Wicks and Luuga, held to 16 and 13 yards in the first half, finished with 117 and 93.
But it was a little-used Jackrabbits player, senior wide receiver Brock Meekelborg, who delivered arguably the play of the night while catching a 25-yard touchdown pass from Tai Tiedermann on fourth-and-14 for a 14-7 lead with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
Clovis North (12-2), the Central Section D-I titlist, failed to seize its opportunity after dominating Poly in the first quarter.
The Broncos, ranked 15th in the state and the section's first bowl D-I representative in the seven-year history of the games, benefited from great field position near midfield on their first three possessions but got only seven points. They missed two field goals then, one interrupted by a high snap, and later had another blocked in the second quarter.
"The score should have been 21-7 -- them," Jackrabbits coach Raul Lara said. "They really came out to play, which I already knew because I know how those Clovis people are. I'm just happy our defense played as well as they did in the first half because (the Broncos) played on a lot of shorts fields."
Clovis North players acknowledged the missed chances.
"That was the crucial part of the game," tight end David Wells said, "and we've got to take responsibility. But all the credit goes to Poly. They're a great team."
Broncos two-way standout lineman Isaiah Duran added: "There was a definite swing of momentum when our offense didn't capitalize on field position. In a game at this level, every point definitely counts."
Rossi closed an outstanding two-year career by completing 13 of 23 passes for 166 yards before being removed from the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos finished with only 77 yards rushing after entering with a 222-yard average on the ground. But they hadn't encountered the depth and size of Poly, led by linebackers Jayon Brown (UCLA commit), Imani Mitchell and Rodney Shorter.
Poly, with the score tied 7-7, asserted itself immediately in the second half.
And it was the Jackrabbits' go-to player, John Smith, who launched the attack with a 25-yard punt return to the Clovis North 48 following the Broncos' first possession of the third quarter.
Clovis North's missed field goals saw Kyle Stevens -- maybe its most valuable player in a 27-10 win over Central in the section's D-I title game last week -- go slightly wide left on a 23-yarder; miss badly left in large part because of the bad snap; and having what was lined up as a 27-yarder smothered by Poly star Smith.
And it was Smith -- the team's best player, according to coach Raul Lara, as a wide receiver, safety and special teams contributor --who tied it 7-7 by outleaping two Broncos and catching a 9-yard lob from backup quarterback Eban Jackson with 9:38 remaining in the second quarter.
That capped a 10-play, 80-yard march, featuring Jackson's 42-yard pass to running back Luuga, who won a jump ball on the right sideline and in front of Clovis North's bench.
Jackson, who actually was starting to open the season before being benched after the Jackrabbits' 1-3 start, entered on the final play of the first quarter after Tiedermann had gone 2 for 7 for 9 yards.
Further, Poly hadn't made a first down until Jackson's 8-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
Rossi came out hot, completing 6 of his first 7 attempts for 106 yards.
He completed a 23-yarder to Tymon Locklin on his first attempt in the drive that closed with the missed 23-yard field goal.
But it was a Rossi 37-yard pass to Marcus Rose -- who beat Smith badly -- that set up Bolu Olrunfunmi's 4-yard run untouched to the left for a 7-0 Broncos lead with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
Clovis North outgained Poly 134-112 in the first half. But the Broncos had rushed for only 25 yards by then.