Growing pains turned into one big giant ouch for South Pasadena High’s varsity football team Friday night as the Tigers fell 68-0 to neighboring Eagle Rock in their final non-league game of the season.
A team hit hard with injuries has been forced to play a group of younger players just learning the game at the varsity level. And absorbing a blowout loss like the one the Tigers experienced is never easy. “It was pretty brutal,” said Tigers’ coach Jeff Chi in the aftermath on the devastating loss.
South Pasadena’s 68-point setback to the Eagles, looked much like the Tigers troubling 59 to 6 loss to El Monte in week two and 52-7 defeat to Arroyo in week four.
“I told the guys to lean on and rely on each other, that you’re a team and you’re going to go through tough losses like this in life,” said Chi when asked what he told his club after it was over.
A powerless offense and a defense giving up big yardage on the ground and through the air made it difficult for South Pasadena to keep pace in this one. “We worked hard, but when you’re oversized and don’t match up to their talent, it makes for a tough night,” said the coach. “Eagle Rock is a very good team.”
Greg Luna said it was the most lopsided football loss he’s been associated with at South Pasadena High since becoming the Tigers’ athletic director five years ago.
“They beat us pretty good,” he said, noting that South Pasadena recovered a punt deep in Eagle Rock territory early in the contest, but an interception – one of six thrown by the Tigers on the night – at the Eagle’s 10 stopped the scoring opportunity.
Friday’s devastating loss to Eagle Rock leaves the Tigers at 2-4 as they head into next Friday’s Rio Hondo League opener on the road against San Marino, which tied Newport Harbor 20-20 in its last outing. The Titans, 4-1-1, are expected by many to win the league crown.
Eagle Rock, meanwhile, a football juggernaut coached by South Pasadena resident Andy Moran, remained unbeaten at 5-0 as they steamrolled the Tigers, reeling after the loss.
“We’re just getting too many guys banged up,” said Chi, whose team entered Friday’s contest with a slew of players not at full strength. “We fix one thing, then something else breaks. It’s a constant patchwork. We don’t have a lot of depth, so we’re relying on kids who don’t have a much experience and are not ready to go, but we have to count on them. It has been tough.”
South Pasadena hopes to get Samuel Luna-Long back in the lineup against San Marino after the Tigers’ quarterback suffered an elbow injury in the Tigers’ 29-14 loss last week to Alhambra.
In his place Friday night was Jayden Gallego, who normally plays wide receiver and linebacker, and has been called into action as a result of the wounds Tiger players have been faced with this season.
In a game with few Tiger highlights, running back Ivan Estrada busted loose on a 30-yard gain in the second quarter. He finished the night with 49 yards on six carries. The remaining ball carriers packed the ball 12 times for minus one yard in the game.
“We just struggled to get things going,” said Chi. “Give Eagle Rock credit. They played a good game.”
The Eagles scored five touchdowns in the first quarter, three in the second and two more in the fourth. They had two through the air, and six on the ground to go along with a 33-yard interception and 17-yard fumble recovery, both for touchdowns.
Eagle Rock rolled to a 33-0 lead after the first quarter and built a solid 54-0 advantage at the half before easing on the brakes in the second half, playing their reserves over the final two quarters. A running clock in the entire second half ended the contest quicker than normal and helped take some of the sting away from the loss.
By then, Chi and his charges were ready to make an exit. He knows the score could have been much more one-sided if the clock wasn’t continuously clicking off time in those final two quarters.
“We have minor injuries here and there and, unfortunately, we’re not playing at 100 percent,” said Chi, whose smaller team was no match for the Eagles on this night. “They have a lot of big guys on the line and skill guys who are quick and flashy. They’re a really good team.”
As he looks ahead to San Marino on the road Friday, the Tigers’ coach stressed the importance of cutting down on penalties, turnovers and missed tackles.
“We just have to play better, play as a team and control what we can – continue to work hard and do the best for each other,” explained Chi. “We need to play as a team and continue to work hard.”
The Tigers will be facing another strong opponent in the Titans and the mindset for South Pasadena won’t ever waver. “We’re always preparing our guys to win,” said Chi. “We want to find an edge, go out and execute to give us momentum on offense, as we get ready for San Marino in our league opener.”
The bottom line for the Tigers, insisted Chi, is to simply “go out, play hard, try to play injury-free and simply better.”
Tom Ashby contributed to this article.