By Gary Montgomery
Riverside Poly 49 J.W. North 17
The Bears show North little mercy on the way to a 10-0 start and first league title in decades.
For nearly three decades the Poly football team has headed to its annual battle with cross town rival J.W. North with little hope of returning with anything other than another humiliating loss. This year, the short 20 minute bus ride back across town was likely too short to fully savor what they had just accomplished.
In just two seasons, Poly’s Coach Dennis has completely flipped that script and changed the expectation and aspirations of the entire program. After Friday’s blowout of its cross town rival the Bears (10-0; 5-0) have not only seized bragging rights for the year but completed an unbeaten regular season, clinched the league title, and secured a much prized first round home playoff game.
Riverside Poly won its last league title way back in 1985. None of the current players were even born at that time. Several players from the 80’s team, now dads and boosters were on the sideline to help celebrate the win.
“This is something we will remember forever. It’s something so special because it’s a team thing. It’s Tim Harding giving us a pregame speech about the teams of the 80’s. I can’t even describe the feeling,” said senior running back Devontre Hale.
Tim Harding is one of those 80’s players and must have felt compelled to provide the team with some additional motivation. His pregame pep talk must have taken a while for the team to digest. North (3-7; 3-2) took the opening kickoff and marched right through the Bears defense to take a quick 7-0 lead and somewhat of a shocking start.
The Huskies’ opening 69-yards drive took just over 3 minutes and was capped off by an 11-yard catch and run from Daonjae Owens to Armstrong Mephors. That jolt of reality must have been enough to awaken the sleeping Bears’ defense. North wouldn’t cross the 50-yard line again in the first half.
Poly’s offense quickly took charge of the affair opening up a barrage of scoring that culminated with a 42-14 halftime lead over the struggling Huskies’ and for all practical purposes ending the contest and starting the countdown to the celebration.
Poly’s Ykili Ross took the second half kickoff, eluded a wave of Huskies defenders and raced 91-yards to make the score 49-17 and dash any hopes of a North comeback.
Poly’s Devontre Hale rushed for 143-yards on 18 carries to lead the Bears and pushed his season rushing total to 1596-yards.
Poly’s defense kept the pressure on, shutting down North’s offense and holding the Huskies’ to a single field goal in the second half.
“This is incredibly sweet. It really feels good,” said senior linebacker Evan Telliard when asked about his stellar play this season. “What motivates me is that fact that these guys have my back on every play and that allows me to do what I do.” And what he does is destroy ball carriers. Telliard is the Bears leading tackler entering Friday’s game credited with an amazing 79 tackles this season.
Poly beat the Huskies’ last season for the first time but couldn’t take down Rancho Verde for the League Championship. The 2014 Bears have taken that difficult next step this season and will ride their record breaking accomplishments into Friday’s CIF playoff round.
North, by virtue of their 3 league wins will also advance to the playoff round next week against Citrus Belt League winner Redlands East Valley in Redlands.
The League Champion Poly Bears will host the Mountain Pass League’s final qualifier Hemet Tahquitz on Friday at M.L. King. This group of Bears has already accomplished more than any of its predecessors and will likely raise that bar a lot higher for those who follow them.
Gary Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com