The improbable run to a Southern Section Pac-5 championship appeared to make Long Beach Poly a team of destiny with a State Division I Bowl Championship in its sites.
But the luck ran out for the Jackrabbits and their magic season.
Poly was beaten by Granite Bay, 21-20, at a wet Home Depot Center on Friday that ended the Jackrabbits’ quest for their first state championship victory since 1919.
Poly came into the game ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, but the Jackrabbits couldn’t overcome five interceptions and 11 penalties. With that level of adversity, it’s surprising Poly—the Southern Section Pac-5 champion—was as close as it was to the Sac-Joaquin Section champ.
The victory by Granite Bay (13-3), ranked No. 11 in the state, snapped an 11-game winning streak by Poly (12-4).
Both teams began the year losing three of its first four games.
Trailing 20-14, Granite Bay scored the game-winning points with 1 minute 19 seconds left when John Cooley ran into the end zone from 3 yards. Colin Brown kicked the extra point for the 21-20 lead.
Starting at its own 40-yard line, Poly needed to get into field goal range without any timeouts and having 65 seconds left on the game clock. But the final drive was a disaster. Eban Jackson ran for 6 yards, then spiked the ball to stop the clock with only 36 seconds remaining. Poly’s 11th penalty moved the ball back, very nearly to the original line of scrimmage. Jackson completed a 7-yard pass, and then on forth down had a pass intercepted downfield by Aaron Knapp.
It was Knapp’s second of the game, matching Dylan Keeney, whose second interception was returned 29 yards for a touchdown that led to a 14-7 lead for the Grizzlies.
The final touchdown by Cooley was the only offensive touchdown for Granite Bay, which became the second Sac-Joaquin Section team to beat Poly in a Bowl game; Sacramento Grant won the 2008 Open Bowl, 25-20, on a touchdown with 1:11 remaining.
Colin Brown kicked two field goals, of 42 and 37 yards for Granite Bay; he also missed a 42-yarder.
Poly’s rushing game was almost nonexistent, even though Manu Luga carried 14 times for 104 yards. Gerard Wicks, the bigger rushing threat, was limited to 19 yards on 12 carries.
Eban Jackson, who replaced Tai Tiedemann at quarterback, tossed two touchdown passes, a 40-yarder to Wicks on a flea flicker in the first quarter, and a 28-yarder to John “JuJu” Smith with 11 seconds left in the third.
Luuga gave Poly a 20-14 lead with 3:47 remaining, and even though the kick failed, the defense had not allowed an offensive touchdown all night.
But 2 1/2 minutes later, that changed.