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MICHAEL GOULDING, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Long Beach Poly running back Manusamoa Luuga heads for the end zone on a 70-yard touchdown run against Mater Dei in the first quarter of the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division title game at Angel Stadium.

Poly's wildcat hurt Mater Dei

OCVARSITY.COM

ANAHEIM – Long Beach Poly reached deep into its playbook Saturday night for an offensive wrinkle that gave Mater Dei fits in the CIF Pac-5 Division final.

Long Beach Poly delivered a heavy dose of direct snaps to running backs Manusamoa Luuga and Gerard Wicks in the first half, and it helped pave the way for the Jackrabbits' surprisingly one-sided 35-17 victory in front of 12,736 at Angel Stadium.

"That's the first time we implemented it," Long Beach Poly coach Raul Lara said of the wildcat strategy with the running backs. "Each week, if you haven't noticed, there was a little wrinkle. ... This week, it was the wildcat."

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Luuga helped break open the game by taking a direct snap for a 71-yard touchdown run and 14-0 lead with 4:48 left in the first quarter.

The senior lined up at quarterback and appeared to dash untouched to the end zone on a sweep left behind pulling linemen.

Long Beach Poly (11-3) chewed up yards on similar plays throughout the first half. Luuga and Wicks ran off direct snaps on the Jackrabbits' game-opening six-play, 63-yard scoring drive.

The drive ended with a 21-yard TD catch by wide receiver Juju Smith from quarterback Tai Tiedemann just 2:09 into the first quarter.

Wicks, a Washington State commit, later broke a 17-yard run on a direct snap in the second quarter that helped set up Long Beach Poly's third touchdown. Wide receiver Thomas Tucker caught a 38-yard TD pass from Tiedemann for a 21-3 lead early in the second but the drive received a boost from Wicks.

Lara said the Jackrabbits picked the wildcat strategy because of how the teams' 2010 playoff encounter turned out. Mater Dei beat Poly, 26-10, in a Pac-5 Division first round game that season.

"They really loaded up the box (against the run)," Lara recalled. "We decided (this time), lets put another blocker in there and make our quarterback the running back. ... It worked out for us."

Long Beach Poly finished the first half with 140 yards rushing on 14 carries, an average of 10 yards per touch.

Mater Dei's defense was coming off a strong performance in the semifinals against St. Bonaventure of Ventura running back Zach Green. The Monarchs held the bruising Arizona commit to 87 yards on 14 carries in a 21-0 victory.

St. Bonaventure finished with just 68 yards rushing on 26 carries.

Luuga finished with 132 yards on 13 carries while Wicks had 35 yards on 14 carries.

"I think we're physical up front," Lara said. "We've got the great running backs. ... I think we can run on anybody if we wanted to."

Poly's ground attack slowed considerably in the second half but the Jackrabbits were already in control against Mater Dei (11-3). And Long Beach Poly's defense took over the game in the second half.

"They came out in the wildcat and we gave up two big runs," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. "Then in the second half, they smelled the blood, and we didn't respond. It wasn't our night.

"I thought we did everything right. We had a great week of practice but sometimes it works that way. It's just the way the crazy game is, and I've been in it a long time."

The Jackrabbits finished with 153 yards rushing as a team. Mater Dei finished with minus 14 yards rushing as a team.


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