In unusual surroundings for both teams, the massive L.A. Coliseum was the site of Thursday night’s Rio Hondo League contest between Pasadena Poly and South Pasadena High, the Tigers rolling to a 27-7 win, their eighth in nine games.
With only one more regular season contest on the schedule, a big one Friday, October 28, against rival San Marino on the road, the Tigers are firmly one of the three league teams set to go to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs starting in two weeks.
San Marino plays Monrovia tonight and should it come out in the short end as expected, the Tigers and Titans will be playing for second place when the two teams meet next week.
The outcome could determine who the Tigers, now 8-1 overall, 3-1 in league, meet in the postseason, either as a second or third place finisher in league. The Titans play Monrovia tonight.
Struggling Pasadena Poly, going in the opposite direction, dropped to 1-7 overall with Thursday’s loss, 1-3 against league opponents and takes on La Cañada in its final game next week.
Jason Hong, the Tigers go-to guy when big yardage is needed, had another solid night for South Pasadena, rushing for 151 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns, one for 18, 4 and 2.
Richard Conti scored the other touchdown on a punt return going for about 50 yards in the second half.
Tigers’ quarterback Jackson Freking didn’t throw much, connecting on four of 13 passes for 47 yards, but was efficient enough in guiding the offense.
“He had a couple of guys who were open that he would normally connect with but didn’t,” explained South Pasadena coach Jeff Chi, noting the passing game was a little bit off. “We would normally connect on those for big yardage. So, we had to really rely on Jason Hong carrying the load to get our offense going.”
Thursday’s matchup was a home game for Pasadena Poly in the mostly empty Coliseum, which opens its doors occasionally for high school contests.
“The experience of playing there was kind of surreal,” said Chi. “I was pretty exciting for the kids. It might have distracted our kids a little bit because we kind of came out a little flat. Poly was focused and getting after us initially and it took us awhile to settle down to play our own type of game. It was frustrating at first.”
The Tigers never trailed and relied on their defense to hold the Panthers to one score, a pass in broken coverage. “Other than that, we pretty much shutdown their running and passing game,” said Chi. “I was an ugly win, but a win is a win, so it was a good night.”
Now all the attention is on 4-4, 2-1 San Marino, a team the Tigers upended in a wild finish a year ago.
“It’s a very important game,” said Chi. “We’re both fighting for second place in the Rio Hondo League. I’m sure in their mind they feel if the beat us they’ll be in second place. I’m sure they will have a chip on their shoulder and will be up for it.”
Added the Tigers’ coach, “They are going to come out guns blazing, ready to go and fight.”
Chi says his team takes one game at a time and with only one defeat likes the idea it has put together an impressive campaign. “I’m very proud of the way they’ve kept their heads up, keep fighting week in and week out,” he noted. “We just want to make sure they are focused and ready to go against San Marino. We have to clean some things up on the offensive side of the ball and be ready. It’s going to be another tough game.”