Long Beach Poly defeats Mission Viejo in a nail-biter

In Friday night’s “other” big game, big plays made the difference for Long Beach Poly in a 35-30 win over host Mission Viejo. The Jackrabbits were redeemed after being limited to 161 total yards in a 41-14 loss on their home field to the Diablos last year.

Devin Samples scored the winning touchdown on an eight-yard streak by 21 seconds. Mission Viejo moved from his own 20 to poly 49 before time was up.

“Coach trusts me,” said Samples, who ran for 86 yards 23 times. “Give me the ball and I’ll do it. It was the same basic running game we use – Iowa Code. I had to read the blocks, but when I saw that cutback lane, I knew I had it.”

Michael Selgado kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Diablos a two-point lead at 6:39, and a blocked punt by Joseph Mendez gave Mission Viejo the ball at poly 14.

However, the Jackrabbits’ defense stiffened and Selgado missed a 36-yard try, giving Poly (3-0) one last chance.

Darius Curry found Jadyn Robinson crossing the goal line for a 16-yard score that gave Poly a 28-27 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Mission Viejo quarterback Kadin Semonza releases a pass against Poly on Friday night.

Mission Viejo quarterback Kadin Semonza releases a pass against Poly on Friday night.

(Steve Galluzzo / For the Times)

The hardy Jackrabbits, No. 8 in the Times top 25 rankings, improved to 2-6 all-time against Mission Viejo, their others winning 21-16 en route to the 2012 Pac-5 championship, the last -Quarterfinals of their five Southern Section titles under coach Raul Lara.

The first big play was a 56-yard punt from Selgado, which pinned Poly to his own five-yard line. When the Diablos (2-1), ranked fourth in the Southland according to The Times, got the ball back, they rushed for 91 yards in 12 games and scored the game’s first touchdown after a one-yard stumble by Mendez in the second game of the second Quarter.

Poly responded with an eight-play 63-yard march topped by Curry’s 12-yard draw. After the defensive end, Domonic Lolesio tapped a Kadin Semonza screen pass at the line of scrimmage, tackle Phoenix Tusa caught it from the air and ran 12 yards into the end zone to put the Jackrabbits 14-7 ahead.

Mikey Matthews rallied in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Semonza to level the Diablos 14-14, then Travis Anderson returned an interception 40 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown run from Chase Valousky to Bringing Mission Viejo back to the top.

Selgado pinned a 31-yard field goal to increase the lead to 24-14 with five seconds remaining in the first half.

“We weren’t worried at all,” Samples said. “We just had to do the little things.”

Anderson pulled out his second pass down the sideline at the Diablos’ 15, but Mission Viejo had to punt on the drive that followed. Poly sneaked up to 24-21 on Curry’s 11-yard shot at Jason Robinson midway through the third quarter. However, Mission Viejo responded to his ensuing possession with a 34-yard field goal from Selgado.

It would have been the most hyped matchup of the week were it not for the epic showdown between No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei and No. 3 Corona Centennial, which took place 35 miles away and was easily won by the Monarchs – and rightly so. After all, the schools have achieved 27 Southern Section titles combined, compared to 22 combined for Mater Dei and Centennial.

“It feels good,” Samples said. “We were blown away by them last year but this is a new team.”

The eighth meeting of two of the most successful public school programs in Southern Section annals was just as exciting as the first in 2003 when future USC and NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez defeated host Diablos 28-27.

Poly not only avenged a bitter defeat last fall, but also recorded its 801st win.

According to Cal-Hi Sports’ record books, the Jackrabbits became only the second team in state history to reach that plateau with a win over No. 24 Gardena Serra last week. Bakersfield reached 800 last season and went into the night with 803 wins.

Poly, which opened in 1895 and fielded its first football team in 1908, has a proud history. It has won 20 Southern Section titles and its first state title in 1919. The Jackrabbits won a state record 82 consecutive league games from 1994 to 1909. Since opening in 1966, Mission Viejo has won seven section titles and won the 2015 State Division 1-AA bowl game. The Diablos’ 41-game winning streak from 2001-03 is the second-longest in Orange County history.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/highschool/story/2022-09-02/long-beach-poly-beats-mission-viejo-in-nail-biter Long Beach Poly defeats Mission Viejo in a nail-biter

Emma Bowman

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