Thursday night’s battle between Long Beach Poly and Narbonne had lots of intrigue before our media partner USA TODAY High School Sports spoke with Poly head coach Antonio Pierce, who said his new 5-star QB Malik Henry could play against the Gauchos.
Thursday’s game will be the opener for Narbonne, which returns 19 starters from last year’s team that won its third CIF-LA City Section Division I title in four years. Poly opened its season two weeks ago in Arizona where the Jackrabbits beat defending Arizona Division II champ Centennial 13-12.
Poly is ranked #6 in our High School Football America/SoCal Top 25, while Narbonne is ranked #7.
Narbonne, under head coach Manny Douglas, who has a lifetime record of 120-51-1 had a good summer. In July, the Gauchos surprised some with its championship at the Battle at the Beach passing tournament. With 10 of 11 starters back on offense, including quarterback Roman Ale, Narbonne will be able to put-up points.
Last season as a junior, Ale threw for over 2,800 yards and 26 touchdowns, plus ran for seven scores. Ale will have plenty of offensive weapons to choose from, including two Arizona verbal commits — wide receiver DeVaughn Cooper and runnning back Sean Riley.
Cooper had 34 catches last year for 587 yards and eight TDs. Riley rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns, plus he led the team with 37 catches.
Defensively, this year’s squad could be as good as Douglas’ 2012 team that went 14-1 with four shutouts. The defense will be led by Nevada verbal commit Lawson Hall at linebacker and junior defensive end Anthony Pandy, who had 11 sacks last year. Pandy was second on the team in tackles with 93, Hall was third with 87 tackles.
That defense will be tested if Henry plays for Poly. Last year at Westlake, Henry, who has given his verbal commitment to Florida State, threw for 2,051 yards and ran for 314. He tossed 15 TD passes against five interceptions, plus he ran for six touchdowns.
In the win against Centennial two weeks ago, Jack Jones, who will become Henry’s favorite target when he plays, caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, plus he had 30 yards rushing.
The biggest thing that Poly will need to change from its first game is penalties. Against Centennial, Poly was flagged 16 times for 135 yards.
In the series between the two, Narbonne has only beaten Poly once. That was in 2012, when the Gauchos handed the Jackrabbits a 56-0 beating that is the worst-ever in the program’s history.
Kickoff at Narbonne is set for 7 o’clock.
Narbonne/Poly recent scores
2014 – Poly 34 Narbonne 21
2012 – Narbonne 56 Poly 0
2011 – Poly 19 Narbonne 16
2010 – Poly 23 Narbonne 20
2009 – Poly 28 Narbonne 14