When you’re facing an opponent that hasn’t won a game all season and has been outscored 157-28 in those four contests, it’s easy to look beyond what’s next on your football schedule.
That’s the situation facing South Pasadena High this week as the Tigers are coming off a lopsided 45-27 victory over neighboring Alhambra in their final non-league contest of the season last Friday and have two weeks to prepare for winless Temple City.
It marks the Rio Hondo League opener for both teams, and while South Pasadena is the clear favorite at 2-3 against the 0-4 Rams, which has one more preseason game to play Friday night, Tigers’ coach Jeff Chi cautions his club can’t look past them in anticipation to more powerful foes in coming weeks – three straight home games against La Cañada, Pasadena Poly and San Marino, respectively, on October 8, October 15, and October 22, and a the regular season finale on the road October 28 against Monrovia.
“We’re both struggling,” said Chi, looking at the overall records of both South Pasadena and Temple City, “but I think if we do all the right things in preparing for them, we should do okay. I don’t want our kids to take them too lightly and think about the next game after the Rams. But at the same time, we want to take a glance at La Cañada. They’ve been pretty successful over the past five weeks. We’ll keep and eye on them a little as we get ready for Temple City, which obviously is our main focus. From what I’ve seen on film, if we just play our game we should be able to handle those guys. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot by making stupid mistakes and creating penalties. We just have to come out, play sharp, and give ourselves a chance to win. That’s one of the biggest challenges, keeping our players positive and focused.”
Chi likes the idea that his club is coming off a one-sided victory over Alhambra, which fell to 1-3 with the loss. He’s also in favor of the extra week before his team faces Temple City, allowing some of his players, banged up in earlier games, to heal and get back on the mend.
“We had a pretty good running and passing game and got out front, held it, and came away with a key win,” said Chi, noting the victory over the Moors was a good way to end the preseason. “We kind of got on top of them and never looked back.”
South Pasadena recorded a team season high 413 rushing yards against Alhambra, thanks in large part to solid offensive line play. The Tigers top running back Jack Riffle had a big night, carrying the ball 14 times for 205 yards, including a pair of touchdowns on the ground. He also hauled in one pass for 20 yards. Teammate Alexander Gonzalez had eight carries 72 yards. Jason Hong was busy, carrying the ball seven times for 32 yards.
Other South Pasadena players contributing to the running attack were Devin Robinson – three carries 32 yards and one touchdown, and Lionelle Limqueco – three carries for 41 yards.
Richard Conti led South Pasadena in receiving, making three catches for 51 yards, including a 30-yarder for a TD, which fell neatly into his grasp after a Alhambra defender tipped it.
He’s now on a three-game streak for catching a touchdown pass.
Quinn Stirling, James Dowd and Sawyer Fox all had one catch apiece. Dowd, a freshman whose grandfather was LA Rams great Merlin Olsen, hauled in a 30 yarder for a score.
Quarterback Noah Aragon connected on nine of his 13 passes for 115 yards, and threw for one TD. He also picked up 19 yards on three carries and ran one in before going out in the second quarter and not returning. Aragon left the game in the second quarter with a bruised knee and did not return. Back-up Jack Freking came in and tossed a 30-yard touchdown in his only completion in three attempts. He also helped the offense, making three catches for 32 yards.
Defensively Tigers cornerback Luke Riffle had eight tackles and successfully defended against passes coming his way. South Pasadena defensive end Sage Wayans had four tackles on the night, including a sack. Linebacker Jaden Castellon helped with a handful of tackles over the course of the game. Sage Wayans, playing in his first game with the varsity, had a key sack in the third quarter, to go along with his tackles. Hong, when he wasn’t carrying the ball, made nine tackles, two for a loss, and had an interception from his linebacker spot.
On special teams, kicker Aidan Kinney booted all six of his PAT’s and kicked the Tigers’ first field goal of the season.
South Pasadena jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first period on a 35-yard run by Riffle and an 18-yard touchdown run by Aragon. Following an Alhambra touchdown to open the second quarter, Aragon connected with Conti from the Moors’ 30 for the score and Kinney successfully booted a field goal, putting the Tigers out front 24-7 at the half.
Riffle bolted up field for a 70-yard TD in the third period before Alhambra scored, and Freking found Down from 30 yards out, sending South Pasadena into the fourth period with a 38-14 advantage. Robinson’s 18-yard touchdown put South Pasadena comfortably on top 45-14 before Alhambra scored twice in the final quarter.
“For sure,” said Chi, when asked if it was the Tigers best offensive performance of the season. “We looked back on the four previous games and we made a lot of mistakes that seemed to be corrected in this game. They came out and did a good job.”
He welcomes the idea of not seeing competition for awhile, as the Tigers will use the time before matching up against Alhambra to “get healthy, not feeling the bumps and bruises, get in a little better shape, use the weight room effectively to maintain our strength, and work hard to eliminate mistakes,” said Chi, saying his team did much better in that department against the Moors. “We just want to work on being sharper, quicker and executing well on both sides of the ball. We were making a lot of mistakes early in the season, but we knew they were fixable.”
They fixed a lot of them in their last game against Alhambra, which met a team that was efficient on both sides of the ball.
“Ultimately, we just want to improve everyday as we look ahead to the league season,” said the Tigers’ coach. “Now it’s for real. Our goal, the worst-case scenario, is to finish third in league, but still make the (CIF) playoffs. We feel we could be a solid second, but first place would be nice, too. There’s always a chance we could go 4-0 in league and face Monrovia for the championship the final week of the season.”