Damian Henderson rushes for 237 yards in Los Alamitos win

For one glorious Friday night, it was the public school forces that took the spotlight in the Southern Section Division 1 football playoffs.

The undefeated Long Beach Poly, a 20-time section champion, took on rival Los Alamitos, the school with the seemingly unstoppable offense featuring future USC Trojans Malachi Nelson and Makai Lemon.

Nearly 10,000 came to Veterans Stadium to create a festive atmosphere. Who would be considered little or big brother in this rivalry? Nobody seemed to care that the reward for the win would be a matchup against undefeated Santa Ana Mater Dei in the semifinals. Mater Dei won against San Juan Capistrano JSerra 54-14.

Los Alamitos players celebrate after beating Long Beach Poly on Friday night.

Los Alamitos players celebrate after beating Long Beach Poly on Friday night.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

And why would anyone apologize for enjoying the moment? The field was filled with future college players and maybe a few future pros considering Poly has produced more NFL players than any other school in California.

Los Alamitos running back Damian Henderson sure looked like he was ready for another level as he rushed for 237 yards and four touchdowns to help Los Alamitos (9-2) progress to a 52 in the second half: 42 win to remove.

The first half was so offensive that fans barely had time to buy a hot dog. Poly came in with five straight shutouts, but the Griffins’ combination of Nelson’s pass and Henderson’s run resulted in five straight touchdowns. Poly responded with big plays, including a 75-yard kickoff return from freshman Kamarie Smith and an 81-yard touchdown reception from sophomore Jadyn Robinson, who had two touchdown catches.

At half-time, Los Alamitos held onto a 33-28 lead. The Jackrabbits defense came up with two stops in the second quarter, denying Henderson a fourth down run and forcing Nelson to two incompletes, resulting in the only punt of the first half.

In the third quarter, Henderson hit on a 45-yard run and sophomore Anthony League added a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Griffins breathing room.

There was talent everywhere at Veterans Stadium, and not just seniors. Los Alamitos have an exceptional offensive tackle newcomer, 6-foot-2, 300-pound Manoah Faupusa, who has protected Nelson’s blindside.

“We have to keep No. 7 alive and he’s that guy,” said coach Ray Fenton. “It’s extremely unusual for a newcomer to do that.”

Then there’s poly quarterback Darius Curry, a junior who was coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Jackrabbits finished 10-1 under Curry’s steady play. He lost for 400 yards and five touchdowns.

There was a lot of attention for Friday’s game, with Bally Sports televising it, and people’s focus on Lemon, who always had great skills as a receiver but also left others unhappy with some of his on-pitch antics. It came to a head earlier this season when officials threw him out for two 15-yard penalties in one game (it was later overturned).

A USC assistant coach had an hour-long conversation with Lemon.

“As of that game, he’s everything you hoped he would be,” Fenton said. “He was outstanding.”

Lemon had 15 receptions and made touchdown catches from 10 and 16 yards.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-11-11/los-alamitos-beats-long-beach-poly-southern-section-quarterfinal-playoff Damian Henderson rushes for 237 yards in Los Alamitos win

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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