Poly vs. Wilson ftb. 2015 086.JPG

The news that Long Beach Poly was forfeiting three Moore League contests Thursday afternoon didn’t come as good news to just about anybody—turns out, that includes the team the news benefitted the most.

Wilson lost to Poly, 67-30, but after the Jackrabbits forfeit the game the Bruins will now claim an undefeated Moore League title. It’s the Bruins’ first league crown since 1991—but that doesn’t mean their head coach was celebrating.

“I feel extremely bad for the Poly program and coach Antonio Pierce,” said Mark Ziegenhagen. “Obviously as a father and a coach any time something’s taken from your kids, it’s a bummer.”

Ziegenhagen’s biggest fear is that the asterisk nature of the league title will distract from the huge progress his team made on the field, going from 3-7 last year to 8-2 this season.

“I don’t want this whole thing to take away from what our kids actually accomplished,” said Ziegenhagen. “It’s a testament to what they put in and what the coaches put in. Now these forfeits happen and we’re league champs and I don’t want it to distract from what we’ve really done the last nine weeks.”

The Bruins forfeit a game last year while Ziegenhagen was the defensive coordinator, and he said that sting is still fresh. “It wasn’t a good feeling—and especially for them to lose a league title,” he said. “Of course we want to earn it on the field, but at the same time we put ourselves in the position of just having one loss in league. They were the better team but I said after the game we’re not going to let one game define our season.”

That season now includes an historic league title and is headed straight for the playoffs, with Wilson hosting a first-round game next Friday, likely against a lower seed from the toughest leagues in the Pac-5 Division. That’s certainly a positive, and Ziegenhagen had to admit, being league champions isn’t so bad either.

“It’s a bummer situation—but at the same time our seniors will experience something they never dreamed of. We’re going to move forward and ride the wave as long as we can. The whole thing sucks, and I feel really bad for Poly—but at the same time I can’t feel bad for my kids.”

Sports Guy Mike Guardabascio has been writing professionally for a decade, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards and is the author of the historical book "Football in Long Beach."

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