After spending long hours watching Alhambra High’s tendencies on film, Jeff Chi and his South Pasadena coaching staff are locked in on how they plan to come away with a victory Friday night.
The Tigers’ coach sees some weaknesses his club hopes to attack. Yet, not wanting to tip off the opposition, he’s not disclosing any of them, except to say it could be a close contest.
“I think it’s going to be an evenly matched game,” was about as close as Chi came to revealing any part of his game plan as South Pasadena, now 2-2, faces an Alhambra team, unbeaten and rolling at 4-0, at home.
Chi hopes his club can put some quick points on the board and see how the Moors handle the pressure of playing behind. “We’re trying to take the early lead and see how they respond,” said the Tigers’ coach.
The Moors have kept their record unblemished by playing about six players on both offense and defense. When teams are forced to play that many “both ways,” said Chi, using football vernacular, “fatigue is usually a big factor in the second half. Hopefully, we can out hustle them, and show that we’re in better shape.”
With the idea of wearing down the Moors, Chi is hopeful of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. He is counting on Marlon Rosales to help make that happen as the Tigers’ key offensive lineman returns to the lineup after suffering an injury earlier in the season.
“He’s one of those really outstanding linemen who can help us,” said Chi. “Having him back on the line is huge.”
South Pasadena, which has had its share of bumps and bruises all season long, looks to have much of the starting offense and defense intact in time for Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff.
“The guys know their assignments and what to do,” insisted Chi. “We’re just tweaking here and there, making adjustments according to what we’re expecting to see from Alhambra. We just want to make sure our guys are healthy, in shape, focused and ready to play.”
Admittedly, Chi said that’s one the biggest challenges of being a head coach – getting his team prepared with the mindset of playing its best football on Friday nights. “It’s fun, but a lot of time goes into getting the team ready for the next game,” he said, noting, “It’s always fun. It’s like a chess match trying to beat the other team, seeing what they’re going to do and how we’re going to counteract. That’s what makes it interesting. Motivating our players, getting them ready for the task at hand is something that we, as coaches, all enjoy.”
Both of South Pasadena’s victories have been at home in an up-and-down season. The Tigers opened the season with a 35-14 victory over Mountain View and held on for a 7-6 win against Eastside in the third week. Away from home they’ve suffered lopsided losses to El Monte (59-6) and Arroyo (52-7).
On the other side, Alhambra has put away South El Monte (14-0), Rowland (14-6), Temple City (20-2) and Wilson (21-20) in its string of four victories.
“Improving, making positive steps, getting better with every practice is what we’re looking for from our players,” explained Chi, when asked what he’s hoping for in week 5 or the halfway point of the season. “We’re making strides. It’s fun watching them become better athletes.”
At some point, Chi said he’s considering pulling some players from the frosh/soph squad, which is off to an impressive 4-0 record, to help fill out his varsity roster. “We’ve got some kids at the lower level who are playing well who may be able to help us,” he said, trying to keep positive despite the pair of losses by wide margins that won’t be easy to forget.
“We have to have a short memory,” he insisted, trying to put the defeats to El Monte and Arroyo out of his mind. “The one positive we can take as we prepare for Alhambra is that we’re undefeated at home.”
That’s a good thing. “It is,” Chi said, smiling, hoping it will continue this week. “We’d like to keep that going.”