- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
There was a point in mid-September when the thought of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly reaching the second round of the playoffs seemed like a stretch. Now, the Jackrabbits are on their way to the championship game, after knocking off two of the top teams in the country in back-to-back weeks, with victories over Mission Viejo (Calif.) and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. The nine-game winning streak to get Poly to this point was in no small part due to the move of senior David Price from safety to cornerback.
The move came one week after a 29-6 loss dropped Poly to 1-3, and that game came one week after a 56-0 drubbing at the hands of Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne left the Jackrabbits emotionally and physically beaten.
"After that game, everything switched," Price said. "That was embarrassing and served as a wake-up call. We realized we wanted to go prove everybody wrong, and we got the big picture; we started taking things to heart."
When a starting cornerback tore his ACL before the first conference game, Price was asked to switch positions. Since that point, Poly has allowed more than 16 points just one time. In the wins over Mission Viejo and St. John Bosco, two high-powered offenses managed just 16 and 10 points, respectively.
"I was pretty confident, but my teammates were surprised with the switch," Price said. "They were asking me if I even knew how to play corner. I just waited until game day and started to make plays."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defensive back said cornerback is a natural position for him, as he played the position until seventh grade, then made the move to safety just before high school.
"After that first game, I knew I was going to be all right," Price said. "I just had to refresh my skills there."
Price holds scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Fresno State, New Mexico State and SMU, but said his two local favorites have begun to pick up interest. He attended USC's home game against Notre Dame on Saturday night and said contact with the Trojans' staff has picked up in recent weeks.
"They saw my film and liked what they saw," Price said. "I've been talking to coach [Lane] Kiffin -- he just now started talking to me. But all the coaching staff is hitting me up."
Price said this was the third or fourth time he was at USC for an unofficial visit this fall, and the loss didn't take anything away from his desire to sign with the Trojans, although other schools of interest remain.
"They played pretty well," he said. "They had some opportunities to win the game, and they're still in my top places to go."
California, UCLA and Washington, along with USC, make up that top group of schools for Price, and he has players -- former teammate Randall Goforth and cousin Sheldon Price at UCLA, and former teammate Kameron Jackson at Cal -- doing what they can to further his cause with their respective coaching staffs.
He said the increased interest from UCLA and USC has plenty to do with his proven ability to play both cornerback and safety, and he will be sending out a highlight tape of his more recent games to several other programs.
"Both of them said I've been moving up their charts to get an offer," Price said of the Bruins and Trojans. "USC just had a late decommitment, and they said that with the way I've been playing, I'm moving up their list."
Fresno State is the most recent offer for Price, and the senior said he spoke with Bulldogs' secondary coach Tim McDonald about setting up an official visit after the season. He said he would like to take all five of his visits and is still completely open to the recruiting process.
But his first priority is this Saturday, when Price and his Poly teammates will look to complete a completely unexpected turnaround, taking on Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei in the Pac-5 Championship Game.
17hDerek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren
2dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney