During the five game non-league season, South Pasadena High football coach Jeff Chi stressed that all the work being put in was geared toward one goal – reaching the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
That effort begins Friday night when the Tigers face Temple City on the road in the Rio Hondo League opener for both teams.
South Pasadena brings a 2-3 pre-season mark into the 7 p.m. contest against a winless 0-5 Rams’ team, but none of that matters now for Chi and his squad as the league campaign looms.
“The important thing was for us to get better each week during non-league, and for the most part I think we did,” said the Tigers’ coach, pleased by what he saw in his club’s last outing, a 45-27 home victory on September 17 over neighboring Alhambra. “I think the kids feel pretty good about going into league.”
They will be going up against a Temple City team that has struggled from the outset and been outscored 192-42 in five straight losses. The Rams are coming off a 35-14 loss to San Gabriel last week.
“If we continue to protect the ball, win the battle at the line of scrimmage and have a good solid running game, I think we’ll be in good shape,” said Chi, who likes the idea that his team will have had two weeks to prepare for Temple City, while taking a glance on film at stronger league opponents down the road.
Following Friday’s matchup, the Tigers host three straight home games – La Cañada on October 8; Pasadena Poly October 15; and rival San Marino October 22 before concluding the season at Monrovia October 28.
What Chi and his staff are seeing in upcoming teams South Pasadena will face is more spread offense “that kind of stretches you out,” he said. “So, we told our guys we need to be prepared for that. We don’t want to find ourselves off-guard, seeing different schemes, even empty backfields. So we’ve been working on that a lot.”
In league, Monrovia comes in undefeated at 5-0, while La Canada is 4-1, San Marino and Pasadena Poly are 2-2.
“Monrovia, being undefeated, is favored to win the league I’m sure, but then you never know,” said Chi. “Every game is going to be so important.”
Tigers’ quarterback Noah Aragon is expected to start against Temple City after suffering what Chi described as a knee sprain against Alhambra. The two weeks away from competition will work in the signal caller’s favor, stressed Chi, noting he’s been impressed with the solid play of Aragon.
“He’s fine, and I think everyone is good to go, except Grant Huntley,” said Chi of the Tigers starting wide receiver recovering from a fracture to his clavicle early in the season.
Huntley talks about returning to action late in the season if he gets a healthy clearance. “He’s a competitor, a tough kid on offense and defense and I know he want’s to get back on the field,” said Chi. “But that won’t happen unless he’s 100 percent.”
Last week in preparing for Temple City, he said the Tigers went back to fundamentals – hitting, staying with their blocks, emphasizing the running game while receivers worked on running routes. Defensively, the coach said tackling was a key target area.
“We got back to the basics,” said Chi. “We worked on getting them prepared for anything that might happen, not only against Temple City but other teams we will face.”
The game plan for Friday night’s game was also installed and this week South Pasadena will work on it in anticipation for what to expect against the Rams.
Chi said the two-week break between the end of the preseason to the kickoff of league has been positive, allowing “our guys to get a little break in terms of hitting, to get healed up mentally and emotionally, slow down the pace a bit, but I guess the bad part is you get out of the routine of preparing for a [weekly] game, but we’ll be okay. We’re excited what’s to come as the league season is now here. We’ll continue to be patient, work hard and take care of business on the field.”