If Long Beach Poly (CA) coach Antonio Pierce knows the status of his starting quarterback for the showdown with Narbonne (Harbor City, CA) then he is the proud owner of a well-kept secret.
In advance of the Thursday night game he wouldn’t tip his hand if four-star transfer Malik Henry was cleared to play for the No. 80-ranked Jackrabbits against No. 55 Narbonne..
“We are going through the process,” Pierce told NationalHSFootball.com. “Malik has been involved in practice and is learning our system but as for whether he will start or not, I don’t know yet.
“We are all about playing the best guys here, the guys that give us the best chance to win, and if that is Malik then he will play. If his papers are cleared, and his number is called, then we expect him to play well.”
Henry originally started his high school career at Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, CA) but transferred to Westlake (Westlake Village, CA) for nearly two years. He then went to IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL) the second semester of last year but left the program during the summer, shopping his services to several schools before settling in at Poly.
The Jackrabbits struggled offensively in its season opener against Centennial (Peoria, AZ), winning the game close, 13-12.
Its defense carried most of the load with the offense scoring its first points late in the third quarter on a broken play. It chewed up the clock late with a punishing drive that resulted in a touchdown after a handful of big runs up the middle of the Centennial front lines.
Pierce acknowledged that having Henry on the field would at least be a boost from an experience standpoint.
“He is a kid with 20-plus varsity games and is committed to Florida State, so the talent is there too,” Pierce said. “We are playing the best kids for Poly and if the staff thinks that is Malik then we will get him out there.”
Narbonne returns 19 starters from last season. It fell to Poly 34-21, but is the favorite in this contest.
Senior quarterback Roman Ale returns as the starter. His weapons include seniors Cedric Byrd, DeVaughn Cooper and Lewis Citizen as well as junior Tre Walker in the receiver corps. A trio of running backs — seniors Sean Riley and Justin Franks as well as junior Kameron Denmark — can run or catch the ball out of the backfield.
Narbonne coach Manuel Douglas told the Daily Breeze that his team is prepared for whichever player comes out to quarterback Poly.
“He’s a tremendous talent, but we’ve seen great quarterbacks all summer,” he said. “We don’t fear him. We’ll expect him to play, we’re prepared for him. But either way, Poly is a great team.”
“I know if it was the L.A. City Section, he probably wouldn’t be able to play but I don’t know the particulars. I’m sure they are doing things correctly.”
A Thursday kick could push the arrival of Henry back another week.
It could also tip the scale a little further in favor of Narbonne.
Check out four other top games in the West Region for the weekend:
|No. 2 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV) vs No. 42 Bingham (South Jordan, UT)|
In what will be its second game in a string of five straight out of state opponents, Bishop Gorman will take its show on the road to square off with Bingham in Utah. Last season, Bingham gave Bishop Gorman all it could handle in a 23-20 game, won in overtime by the Gaels. Bingham dominated the time of possession and in doing so, limited Bishop Gorman to just 20 points in regulation — its lowest point total of the season.
The Miners converted four-of-five fake punts in the game and also recovered a fumbled snap in Gorman territory to send the game to overtime with a long field goal near the end of regulation.
The two teams are coming off of contrasting weeks, albeit victories none the less. Bishop Gorman disposed of No. 17 Chandler (AZ) 35-14 in its season opener. Bingham is coming off of a 6-0 victory over Herriman (West Herriman, UT).
Although the key to this game will be the talented Bishop Gorman offense versus the mighty Bingham defense, both co-parts for these teams should lend to a balanced matchup. Bishop Gorman has a dynamic offense led by Texas A&M commit quarterback Tate Martell, explosive wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey and the blazing fast Biaggio Ali Walsh. The trio combined to score three of five touchdowns for Gorman in week one. The young defense for the Gaels played much better than expected in limiting the Arizona powerhouse to only 14 points. All three levels of the defense played extremely fast, led by four star Haskell Garrett who moved to the interior of the defensive line from the end position he played a season ago. The linebackers did not allow much room for yards to be gained on the ground and the defensive backs kept everything in front, and did not allow many yards after the catch.
Bingham three-star transfer quarterback Keaton Torre will have his hands full. Torre, who decomitted from Louisville, also holds an offer from BYU and has interest from major colleges all over the country. He appeared to have Bingham on the right track in its 38-0 victory over Westlake (Saratoga Springs, UT) in the first week of the season but could only lead his team to six points last week against Herriman by way of two field goals. Perhaps some of that was looking ahead to the national power coming to town or an unwillingness to show much to Gorman on film. Despite the weak offensive output from a week ago, Bingham certainly has weapons to put up points. A big offensive line will aid both the rushing and passing attack for the Miners. Senior running back Brady Atkin will be a threat on the ground and in the passing game as will sophomore receiver duo Amoni Kaili and Brayden Cosper. The defense, per the usual for the Utah power, will be led by one of the strongest front sevens in the country. Senior line backers Parker Workman and Simian Matagi will play behind junior three star defensive end Langi Tuifua and four star defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Both line backers are future college players. Tuifua is committed to Oregon and Tufele is being recruited by most of the PAC 12 schools.
If the Miners have an upset in them, it will likely be due to the front seven disrupting Bishop Gorman’s passing attack and eliminating big plays in the run game. If not, expect the Gaels offense to pull away from Bingham and pick up where they left off a week ago.
|No. 7 Corona Centennial (CA) vs No. 69 Serra (Gardena, CA)|
The finale at the Honor Bowl held in Oceanside, CA on Saturday will be a good one.
It will be a rematch of an opening round Pac5 playoff thriller that saw Centennial on the winning end of a 68-64 battle last season. Serra will be without Arizona commit Khalil Tate, due to the quarterback being ejected for retaliating to a late hit last week. Junior backup quarterback Jalani Eason stepped in completing 6-fo-10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in a 41-15 victory over Lakewood (CA).
Serra, which is known for a large output of Division 1 athletes, should have enough talent remaining to keep this game competitive. Eason will have senior support in running back Job McGinity and Isaiah Diego-Williams and Brandon Burton in the passing game.
The defense for Serra will need to step up in the absence of its starting quarterback. It will start with one of the nation’s top recruits in defensive end Oluwole Betiku, who registered three and a half sacks last week. Three star linebacker Blake Walls and four star duo Brandon Burton and C.J. Pollard will also be required to play great in an effort to slow down the Centennial offensive attack.
The Huskies have one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The no huddle, up tempo attack can create huge plays on the ground or in the air. Dual threat quarterback Anthony Catalano will be a big contributor to creating points for Centennial. Senior running back J.J. Taylor, an Arizona commit, rushed for 143 yards and three touchdowns in a week one 49-13 victory over East (Salt Lake City, UT). Perhaps the biggest weapon for the 2014 state runner up, is four star Javon McKinley. McKinley can take a screen pass to the house or take the top off of a defense in the blink of an eye. Senior defensive backs Camryn Bynum and Chacho Ulloa will make things tough on the replacement quarterback for Serra.
Centennial enters the game as the favorite but if Serra can create turnovers on defense and put the offense in good positions, the Cavaliers have a punchers chance.
|No. 34 Crespi (Encino, CA) vs No. 73 Orange Lutheran (CA)|
Another classic battle between a team from each of the top two leagues in the state of California – the Mission League vs. the Trinity League.
Week one saw No. 23 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) defeat No. 26 Bishop Amat (La Puente, CA) 24-21. This week Crespi will look to even the score for its leagues sake. The Celts are coming off of a 43-20 win over Sylmar (CA) in which senior UCLA bound running back Jalen Starks rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns. Crespi, known for its veer attack, attempted only two passes in the game. The team was also missing two of its top defenders, who are expected to be back this week.
Orange Lutheran is coming off of an underwhelming 21-13 victory over Dominguez (Compton, CA). It could have been the classic vanilla performance over an inferior opponent but unimpressive nonetheless for the Southern California power. One bright spot was the efficient performance of senior signal-caller L.J. Northington who went 10 of 14 for 181 yards and a touchdown. He also added a touchdown on the ground. The defense saw three defenders record 12 tackles or more including 18 from junior Brandon McKinney.
This should be a very close contest between two of Southern California’s elite and one that will be significant for playoff seeding come November.
|No. 60 Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, WA) vs Oceanside (CA)|
Both of the teams in the second game of the Honor Bowl are coming off of their best finish in recent years.
Eastside Catholic went 13-2 and won the Washington state championship over Bellevue, good enough for a No. 76 ranking in the final HSFB100 poll. Oceanside went 14-1 but was plastered by Folsom in the California Division 1 State Championship game. The 2014 campaign was its best since 2009 when it claimed both a state championship and a No. 49 ranking in the HSFB100.
Oceanside graduated a lot of talent, most of them being contributors to the 2014 San Diego section champions. Isaia Paopao is the team’s biggest talent in 2015. The two star athlete had 640 yards receiving and 8 touchdown catches in 2014, but did not factor in to the offense in a 28-10 victory over San Marcos (CA) in Week One. Junior quarterback Max Shuffer impressed in his debut throwing for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Taj Apodaca caught two touchdown passes and could be the offensive weapon that allows Paopao to concentrate solely on defense.
Both teams lose a lot on defense but the big difference is that Eastside Catholic returns a lot of fire power on offense.
Three-star senior quarterback Harley Kirsch threw for 3,100 yards and 38 touchdowns a season ago. His top target, a California commit, Matt Lanis is back after catching 72 passes and 16 touchdowns. Two other receivers return that combined for 85 receptions and 18 touchdowns to add depth to the passing game. Four star Washington pledge Brandon Wellington is also back after rushing for nine touchdowns in a role that saw him splitting carries with three other backs.
Eastside Catholic is a heavy favorite on paper however the long travel for the Crusaders coupled with the fact that Oceanside has a game under its belt could offer a more competitive game than it should be.
— NationalHSFootball.com senior analyst Dallas Jackson contributed to this report