Posted: 08/28/2010 10:25:59 PM PDT
LONG BEACH - Corey Waller of Poly High stood on the school practice field with four other Jackrabbits defensive standouts.
When told Poly gave up a shade over 20 points per game the first seven games of the 2009 football season, he let out a noise that suggested his disgust.
The Jackrabbits allowed just 8.5 points per game in 2007 and 10 ppg in 2008 - both CIF Southern Section championship-winning campaigns. It was understandable Waller - a starting linebacker/defensive end - wasn't thrilled when he heard those early 2009 statistics.
But he seemed to take solace in knowing that over the last fives games of last season, Poly started to resemble the Poly of old by allowing just an average of 12 points on the way to a three-point loss to Servite in the quarterfinals of the Pac-5 Division playoffs; the Friars won that title, as well as a state bowl championship.
Waller, a senior, said the longer the defense played together, the better it became. That makes sense because the Jackrabbits returned no defensive starters a year ago.
"Yeah, and this year it's more natural, too," said Waller, the only defensive player a year ago to begin the season with significant playing time under his belt. "This year it's going to be fun. We're more experienced this year."
Waller is one of seven full-time returning defensive starters. He and the others queried seem as if they are very eager to get this season underway. It's like they understand the expectations at the school, and welcome the opportunity to live up to them.
Intensity the key
"I think it's a lot of pressure because everybody's looking to us, and we've got the younger guys looking up," senior linebacker Josh Fasavalu said. "So we just gotta keep the intensity up and keep everybody holding their ground."
Junior linebacker Salamo Fiso is one of two players - junior linebacker Matthew Rowe is the other - credited by Waller for giving the team a defensive boost last season. Fiso believes this team could make Poly fans remember those great defensive teams of '07 and '08.
"I believe we can," he said Tuesday at practice. "We just gotta pick it up in practice. Today was a little bit slacking. But all we gotta do is work hard in the weight room, beat up the weights and game-time, just come with it all."
It was last season that Poly lost a Moore League game for the first time since 1994, snapping an 80-game league winning streak.
Rival Lakewood is the one that did it, beating the Jackrabbits, 21-14, last Oct. 9 at Veterans Stadium.
Suffice to say Poly would like a different result when the teams square off on Oct. 8 at Veterans Stadium (it's Lakewood's home game). But senior defensive back Kameron Jackson took the high road when asked how badly they want the return match with the defending league champion Lancers.
"We're just going to take it one game at a time," Jackson said.
"That's the least of our worries," Waller chimed in. But then he added, "We do want revenge."
Senior defensive lineman Michael Teo wasn't what one would call diplomatic when asked if he wanted to weigh in on Lakewood.
"I don't even know who Lakewood is, actually," he said.
Waller high-fived him.
The next day, Lancers junior wide receiver Darius Powe was asked what he thought about Teo's comment. Powe answered coolly, yet confidently.
"We just gotta show them how hard we work," Powe said, "and what's going to happen on the field."
If Poly's defense is as good as advertised, it'll be interesting to see exactly how much will happen in the way of Lakewood offense when the teams collide.