Devin Samples’ runs help Long Beach Poly beat Gardena Serra

For a running back with powerful standards, Devin Samples’ use in week one for Long Beach Poly against Clovis was unforgettable.

Sure, he’s clinched a few touchdowns. But he’s worked his way up for just 33 yards in 11 carries. Coach Stephen Barbee didn’t think that indicated anything – he had a couple of running backs in Karon Green and Josh Cason who would turn more heads.

“I don’t have to run it 20, 30 times a game,” Barbee said of Samples earlier this week.

Thirty-three carries later in a 17-3 win in Friday night’s rivalry match against Gardena Serra, so much for that.

The bigger the game, Barbee said, the greater the power of samples. Few games are bigger than Friday night’s – and time and time again the Jackrabbits turned to Samples to simply put the ball down Serra’s throat. He finished with 177 yards and a touchdown.

It was a new year, Barbee said. Completely new team. Gone are the four-year-old faces at quarterback for each program, Serra’s Maalik Murphy and Poly’s Shea Kuykendall.

Still, Jackrabbits players haven’t forgotten Serra KOing them in last season’s Southern Section Division 1-A Finals, or their 28-27 loss to the Cavaliers in this season’s opener.

“We can’t let them do that three times in a row…we definitely have to come out with a different mentality this time,” quarterback Darius Curry said Tuesday.

On Friday’s Jackrabbits first drive, Curry looked harried, nearly throwing a pickaxe on his first pass and struggling to move the ball. So Barbee turned to a hurry offense right on the next drive and just force-fed Samples, who chugged 78 yards in 14 carries in the first half.

“He has the biggest heart as soon as he gets that ball in his hands,” Barbee said after the game.

Four meters. Eight meters. Six meters. Eight meters. Barely a blink of an eye passed, and Curry surrendered to Samples, the 5ft-6 back’s powerful legs twirling after another stretch of yardage. Finally, after Samples got the ball on the 36, the field opened up for Curry, the quarterback spiraling deep into the night at Veterans Memorial Stadium to find sophomore Jadyn Robinson for the first touchdown of the game.

Robinson was counting for 68 yards and the touchdown, and leading a receiving corps that Barbee called the deepest in his five years as a coach on the program.

“We have dogs all over the field,” Curry said earlier in the week.

One of those standouts was linebacker Ikenasio Mikaele, who picked up back-to-back sacks from Serra quarterback Jason Mitchell late in the second quarter and then fumbled on the Cavaliers’ first drive in the third quarter. Poly defense kept Mitchell off balance all night, the quarterback-turned-safety missing his first seven throws.

As Poly held onto a 10-3 lead late in the third quarter, Samples took a handoff and burst through a hole on the left touchline, a 43-yard gain that marked his first carry of 15+ yards. Snap after snap on the drive, the ball found his trusty hands and he kept digging for short wins until a one-yard push found Paydirt on the third and the goal.

Sure, Barbee might not have to run him 30 times – but in the biggest games, the workhorse is a particular luxury. Devin Samples’ runs help Long Beach Poly beat Gardena Serra

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