In a game moved from Friday night due to a lack of officials, South Pasadena High will host a La Cañada team that is licking its wounds, coming off a one-sided 60-15 loss to powerful Monrovia, a sure sign the Wildcats are the team to beat in the Rio Hondo League this season.
Look what’s up ahead as South Pasadena High prepares for its second of five Rio Hondo League games Thursday night. A ball club that is sure to be coming at the Tigers with plenty of vengeance and firepower, that’s what.
“They’re going to be fired up for sure,” said South Pasadena coach Jeff Chi, recognizing that La Cañada, next on the schedule, is coming off a 60-15 lopsided loss to league powerhouse Monrovia in its last outing. “They have played pretty well all season, so we know we can’t take them or anyone lightly.”
In a late change this week, the contest has been moved from Friday to Thursday as leagues wrestle with not having enough football officials for high school games in the area.
The shortage is not ideal, noted Chi, “because we have less time to prepare, but we’re doing our best to get ready. Both teams are in the same situation, so we have to go with it.”
Chi is convinced La Cañada’s opening season loss is only a bump in the road as other league teams will soon discover the 6-0 Monrovia are clearly the favorite to walk away with the title this season. The Spartans come into the 7 p.m. kickoff with a respectable 4-2 overall mark, matched up against the 3-3 Tigers, coming off a convincing 41-12 win over struggling Temple City, winless at 0-6.
“We know they’re a much better team than the score showed,” said Chi of La Canada’s performance against the Wildcats. “For us, it was a good way to start the league season, but I know we can play a lot better. We have to improve as we go up against better teams in the league. If we don’t, those mistakes could be costly to us. We have to focus on knowing our assignments, fix a couple of mishaps with personnel situations and be aware of those little things.”
Further, Chi insists, “We can never be perfect, but we have to get close to it if we’re going to compete with the rest of the teams we face this season.”
The game was never in doubt as the Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Rams after the first quarter, 34-0 at the half. South Pasadena picked up an early third quarter Rams’ fumble and quickly scored. With a comfortable 41-0 score, the clock ran continuously during the final two quarters. In high school football, a “running clock” is never good for the team trailing badly.
“The second half went real fast,” said Chi, who allowed a good portion of his younger players a chance to play as Temple City scored its only points of the game in the final period. “Our younger guys are learning and I’m glad they had a chance to play.”
Even with the decisive victory, scoring at will, and not letting the peddle off the gas for most of the way, Chi continues to push for perfection. “We expect a lot out of our kids to execute on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process and we just want to keep getting better each week.”
Joining South Pasadena and Monrovia in the Rio Hondo League win column last week was Pasadena Poly, which knocked off San Marino 27-19 in the league season debut. Chi likes being 1-0 in the games that count most in his mind.
“We told the kids to enjoy the win, but we have a tough challenge ahead of us,” he said. “We’re going to continue to battle for the top spot, if not, the top two spots for a chance to go to the playoffs. But in order to get there we have to earn it. As coaches we told the players ‘You have to work for it.’ We’re trying to get them in the right mindset of continuing to work hard.”
For the most part, just like Chi and his coaches drew it up, the Rams had difficulty stopping the Tigers’ running game, and when it came time to throwing the ball, South Pasadena quarterback Noah Aragon had plenty of targets, and Jack Riffle, South Pasadena’s leading rusher this season, found plenty of open spaces once he got past the line of scrimmage with help from his offensive line – tackles Ivan Becerra and Andrew Buenrostro, guards Thomas Carter and Matthew Takasugi and center Aidan Marrujo. The tight end is Sawyer Fox.
Chi liked the idea that Sage Wayans, a 6-foot-7, 185-pound senior, who has seen a lot of action on the Tigers’ basketball team, saw some action catching the ball and made the best of an opportunity to hold his team win. “He really did a good job,” said the South Pasadena coach of Wayans, who came out late for the football program and is beginning to get more time on the field as the season moves along. “Once he gets more playing time under his belt, we think he’s going to be an outstanding receiver.”
Thursday’s matchup with Wayans in the lineup has to favor the Tigers in Chi’s mind. “I don’t know how defensive backs are going to cover a 6-7, nearly 200-pound receiver,” he said. “I see us having the edge in that department.”
A physical game between South Pasadena and La Cañada is expected, Chi hoping the Tigers will take control from the outset, put some points on the board early, add to it and pick up another league victory. “It’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “We’ve got four teams fighting for that first and second spot and we’d like to be one of them.”
The Tigers offense “is clicking – both the running and passing game,” stressed Chi, noting, “We’re picking up good yardage on the ground. We’ve had some dropped balls in earlier games, but we’ve improved tremendously and our guys are making some big catches.”
The coach says the Tigers have one of the tallest defensive lines in the school’s history with 6-3 Fox and 5-10 Alexander Gonzalez at defensive end, and 6-7 Dylan Feak and 6-1 Isaiah Cooper at tackles. Backing up the defensive ends are Wayans, with his towering height, and 6-5 James Dowd. Lines don’t sprout much higher at the high school level.
“All these guys have played great in taking the passing lanes away from quarterbacks,” said Chi. “Anytime you can force the quarterback to throw over all these raised hands it makes it very difficult and disrupts the timing.”