For many of Jeff Chi’s players, it signaled more of beginning than an end as the South Pasadena High football coach urged those returning to a traditional 10-game season in the fall to start hitting the weight room in anticipation to spring and summer workout in the not too distant future.
While Chi, South Pasadena’s head coach, wished the senior class well following the Tigers’ 38-8 homecoming victory at Roosevelt Field Friday night, it won’t be long before he and those coming back will be gearing up for a second campaign in the same year, launching in late August.
“Soon we’re back at it again practicing,” said Chi. “We’re not far away from summer ball. It has been kind of an odd year.”
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The use of the word “odd” is an understatement in the most unusual of COVID-19 shortened seasons that left the Tigers with a 2-1 record, in addition to a game being cancelled. When two key Tigers’ players were unavailable for a scheduled contest against Monrovia last week, SPHS Athletic Director Anthony Chan pulled the plug, saying the game could not be played under safe conditions, deciding to put the game on ice.
The Tigers were back with a mostly full compliment of players for Friday’s game as strict safety protocols were put into place, both teams required to wear face coverings and drink from personal water bottles as a safeguard against the virus.
South Pasadena only has eight listed seniors on its roster – fullback and defensive end Brian Zepeda; tight end and defensive tackle Manuel Chavez; quarterback, safety and linebacker Valentino Nguyen; tackle and defensive end Carson Ithurritze; defensive tackle Joey Duarte; guard, defensive tackle Michah Mekhitarian; and tight end; outside linebacker Owen Quimiro; and linebacker and fullback Cole Sterling.
It marked Temple City’s only game of the season. Fair play was on the minds on both sides of the field in this one. South Pasadena, recognizing that Rams’ player Deon Lam is special in the minds of many, was given an opportunity to score – untouched by Tiger players – for the Rams near the finish. It was a class act by the Tigers to allow him a proud moment.
“I’m just glad we were able to put some kind of season together, as short as it was, for them,” said Chi of his team before the game. “It was good that the parents had a chance to watch their kids, especially the senior class. It was nice to see all the support for them all season long.”
In the end, as bizarre as it was during the coronavirus, playing only a few games, Chi said he was fortunate to put a team on the field this year.
“It is what it is,” he said going into the contest. “Hopefully, the kids have had a good experience.”