Football: No. 4 Long Beach Poly

With regard to the No. 1 team in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings, plenty of consideration was given to Long Beach Poly. The roster, after all, is absolutely loaded with talent. This group is set up for success. You'll find a college-bound player at most every important position.

Then again, what else is new? The Jackrabbits are seemingly always stacked.

Looking good off the field, on paper as they sometimes say, and delivering a finished product on the field are two different stories. Nothing is given, Long Beach Poly must prove itself.

Here's a closer look at the Jackrabbits.

Team: Long Beach Poly

Coach: Raul Lara, 11th year.

2010 Record: 8-3, lost in first round of CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.

Returning starters: 13 total. Seven on offense. Six on defense

Key players on offense: WR Richard Smith (Arizona State), WR Josiah Blandin (Arizona State), WR Randall Goforth (Arizona State), QB Chaiyse Hales, TE Bradford Carter.

Key players on defense: LB Matthew Rowe (Arizona State), Salamo Fiso (Arizona State), LB Jeremy Lutali, DL Jason Fao, DB Jeff Turley, DB David Price.

Difference maker: All the pressure is on Hales, whether he likes it or not. The 5-foot-10, 200-plus pound senior has loads of talent surrounding him, namely three Division I caliber receivers to catch his passes. When it comes to getting the job done, there should not be any excuses here, especially if his offensive line holds up. Hales appears poised for a breakout effort.

Newcomers: WR John Smith, WR Thomas Tucker.

Not to be missed: at Mission Viejo, Friday, Sept. 23. This nonleague showdown with the Diablos, who figure to be ranked among the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 10 programs at the time, is the final tuneup for the Jackrabbits before the embark on Moore League play. A victory will provide a much-needed boost of momentum, perhaps enough to propel a prolonged postseason run.

Coach's comment: “We started to re-evaluate things around here recently. It was something that needed to be done because we've had some of our seasons end earlier than we would have liked. We think we fixed the problems. We changed the atmosphere. Everyone is more committed now. The kids have responded and that's a good thing because we're setting the bar high.''

Final analysis: It's difficult to imagine opponents being able to contain Smith, Blandin and Goforth for a sustained period of time. At some point, odds are, one of the wideouts is going to get loose and make a game-changing play. With that type of threat on the offensive side of the ball, the Jackrabbits figure to have a chance of winning each game they are in once the fourth quarter rolls around. If the defense holds up its end of the bargain, Long Beach Poly could contend for a title.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.