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August 9, 2010

No. 2 Poly back and ready to win

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on July 26 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled later today - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about the rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 2 Long Beach Poly, Calif.
COACH: Raul Lara
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 29 in California

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly coach Raul Lara is hoping that people are listening to him this season.

"I told everyone who asked me last year that we wouldn't be that good and that it would be the season for teams to get us," Lara said. "No one listened to me. Everyone still ranked us high because of the name on the front of the jersey. We took our lumps, but I tried to warn everyone."

In full disclosure, RivalsHigh was one of those guilty parties. Lara told us that the Jackrabbits would suffer some setbacks, but we still ranked them No. 19 nationally to start the season in 2009.

Poly finished 2009 at 7-5 - its worst record in more than 20 years - and unranked nationally.

This season, the team brings back nine starters on offense, nine on defense, and its kicker and punter. And Lara likes what he sees.

So, Poly begins this season ranked No. 2 in the RivalsHigh 100.

"Now, I hope people are listening to me," he said. "We are going to be very good this year. This has the potential to be like the 2004 team."

The 2004 team went 13-1, won a state title and was ranked nationally.

Its only loss was to Mission Viejo (Calif.) High - a team that was led by Mark Sanchez, went undefeated, won a state title and was ranked nationally itself.

While the 2010 Poly team may still use Mission Viejo as an early measuring stick game - the two meet on Sept. 24 - it will not be the only game on the schedule of note.

Poly will take on Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure - which beat Poly 27-7 last year - Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne and Lakewood (Calif.) High - who also beat Poly 21-14 in 2009 - to go along with Mission Viejo and then any potential playoff games.

The Jackrabbits will also look to exact some revenge against Long Beach (Calif.) Millikan, which handed Poly its third loss in the section last year, after Poly had gone years without a single section loss.

"There are people here that think Lakewood will still beat us," Lara said. "We think we can win a national title, so only time will tell."

With the depth coming back at Poly, it is hard to discredit Lara, who has already proven himself as a soothsayer.

The only position left unsettled entering the season is at quarterback, which lost its starter from 2009.

"We have a couple kids battling it out for the spot," Lara said. "So that is our only real unknown. If we can get that situated, I really like our chances."

The current two battling are Chaiyse Hales and Emmanuel Lara.

"They are very similar players," Lara said. "Both have moments of beauty and moments that make me crazy."

And despite being the coach's son, the younger Lara does not have an inside edge at the position.

"He has to go win the job," the elder Lara said. "Right now, neither has done it and we may go with a platoon and play the hot hand."

The team, which is not accustomed to losing, learned a lot last season and grew together as a unit.

The improvement was measurable as it opened 2009 with a 30-7 loss to Anaheim (Calif.) Servite but closed the season with a 21-18 loss to the same Servite team.

Lara particularly liked what he has seen this summer from the group.

"The way we ended last year was a good sign," he said. "The way we have played this summer has been very good as well."

He also thinks this team is ready to take that next step to get back to national prominence.

"I really want to win that national title," he said. "I think if we can win the Pac-5, combined with our early season schedule, I think we would have a good shot. I mean we have the talent. We are loaded."

Loaded, you say?

We are listening.

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