Long Beach Poly's John Smith and Josh Love celebrate Smith's touchdown as Orange Lutheran's Cory Hollowell walks away during Friday's CIF-SS Pac-5 Division playoff opener at Veterans Stadium.

L.B. Poly rallies late to get past Orange Lutheran


LONG BEACH – Recent history has shown that when Long Beach Poly and Orange Lutheran get together, the games are far from ordinary.

Friday night's first-round CIF-SS Pac-5 Division playoff game certainly stayed true to the trend.

After a late special teams miscue by Orange Lutheran, Josh Love connected with Christian Pabico on a touchdown to propel Poly to an 18-16, come-from-behind victory at Veterans Stadium.

The third-seeded Jackrabbits (10-1) advance to play on the road Friday against St. Bonaventure of Ventura (8-3), which beat Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks on Friday night.

“We just had to keep everybody up and ready,” Love said. “We had to believe that we could win the game.”

This was the third straight playoff game between these programs that was decided by two points or fewer. The last meeting was Nov. 30, 2007, when Poly won, 2-0, to advance to the CIF championship, which it won. The other was just a year earlier, on Dec. 1, 2006, when Orange Lutheran won, 23-22, to advance to the final, which it won. 

“I think it's just because they're a very good football program,” longtime Poly coach Raul Lara said. “We're a very good football program. We respect each other, and I think it's just a great game.”

At several points Friday, it appeared Orange Lutheran (7-4) was going to pull off the upset. Already leading by four, the Lancers got the ball back at their 23-yard line with just more than three minutes to play.

Poly's stout defense, which played a great game vs. Orange Lutheran's triple-option offense, forced a three-and-out. That's when things got a little crazy.

Orange Lutheran punter Jerry Fitschen fielded a snap off a bounce and then bobbled the ball again. With the defense closing in, he threw the ball down field. It fell incomplete for intentional grounding and Poly took over at Orange Lutheran's 8-yard line.

Two plays later, with 1:43 left, Love found Pabico in the front corner of the end zone from 7 yards out for Love's third touchdown of the game and Pabico's 11th of the season.

The win was especially sweet for Love, who attended Orange Lutheran his freshman year and was playing against some of his friends. He passed for all three of Poly's touchdowns, the other two to star senior John “JuJu” Smith.

“He had a great game today,” said Smith, who caught six passes for 107 yards. “Josh stepped up really big today.”

Orange Lutheran senior Luke Langdon had a part in both of the Lancers' touchdowns. He scored on a 1-yard keeper in the third quarter to tie the game and connected with Adam Connette on a 25-yard touchdown to give his team a 13-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. Connette caught six passes for 104 yards. 

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