Win or lose, his team has been asked to rebound seemingly every week, either after a lopsided defeat or losing key players following a victory, throughout an up-and-down season.
South Pasadena High’s football team has endured three devastating losses in which opponents outscored the Tigers 79-13. In addition, the Tigers have experienced a large number of injuries, yet Jeff Chi’s team keeps rising from the canvas in anticipation to its next encounter.
Chi and his 2-4 club have fought an uphill battle from the start and are facing another difficult task when it faces a 4-1 San Marino team on the road Friday night in the Rio Hondo League opener for both teams.
If falling to El Monte 59-6, Arroyo 52-7 and Eagle Rock 68-0 in the preseason hasn’t been difficult to endure, the Tigers lost key personnel in victories over Mountain View (35-14) and Eastside (7-6).
Whether it’s a tough defeat or trying to overcome the loss of an injured player “we’ve had to rebound every week,” acknowledged Chi, laughing at the thought.
On the injury front, the Tigers are getting many of their players back in time for the 7 p.m. kick off in San Marino. “There’s no more resting,” was his message to the wounded on his team this week. “If you can go, we need you to play.”
The South Pasadena coach said most of his injured players will be back in action “and will go as far as they physically can. We always keep in mind that this is just a game and we don’t want to have any life threatening injuries. We always ask: ‘Can you go? Are you capable of playing? Based on that, we go from there.’”
Chi recognizes he’ll be facing a team that also is not at full strength in the match-up against San Marino, a rivalry the Titans have overwhelmingly dominated past seven games.
Last year’s one-sided 41-point victory by San Marino improved the Tigers lead in the overall series to 32-28-3. While it may appear to be somewhat close, the Titans have dominated since 1984 with a 24-9-1 record.
Titan’s coach Mike Hobbie, who came on the scene at the start of the 2011 season, is making it look easy. San Marino has recorded 28-7, 43-8, 21-6, 57-14, 35-0, 41-20 and 55-14 wins over those seven years.
South Pasadena will have to play its best game, according to Chi, to stay with a team that rolled up 76 points on El Monte and another 63 in a win over Santa Fe. The Titans are averaging 42 points per game.
With all that going for San Marino, Chi believes his club has a chance against his rivals. “We watched the film on them,” he said, “and know they have some injuries, too. We feel like it’s going to be a game that we can pull out. But we have to do everything right on our part.”
One of the biggest problems facing the Tigers will be Hobbie’s grandson, Beau, a 5-6, 160-pound junior running back, who rushed for 159 yards on 19 carries and five touchdowns – going 7, 1, 5, 28 and 7 yards – in last year’s win against the Tigers.
It’s questionable if Hobbie will play on Friday after missing last week’s 20-20 tie to Newport Harbor. “I know he’s got some hamstring issues,” said Chi. “But being a rivalry game, they’re probably saving him up for our game. We’re preparing as if he’s going to play.”
While San Marino hoisted the Crowley Cup – the prize at stake going to the winners – after last year’s game, South Pasadena players pondered yet another loss, wondering what it’s going to take to beat the team on the other side.
“We’re going to go out, be aggressive, take advantage of their players not being 100 percent,” Chi said.
Recognizing that his team may still be trying to get past last week’s 86-0 loss to Eagle Rock, Chi continues to remind his team “that we’re a family,” he said. “Sometimes you might have family members that don’t make good decisions, you try to support them and put them on the right track. For our guys, they’ve been out here since spring practice and have spent a lot of time working hard. So I tell them to rely on each other’s support, execute the plays and go in the right direction. I tell them to have a short term memory loss – focus on the next play, the next game. We don’t dwell too much on the negatives. We’re looking at ways to beat the other teams. The wins will come with a collective effort.”