No one said it was going to be easy. Certainly not Jeff Chi, who took his South Pasadena High football team on the road Thursday night to take on undefeated Monrovia in the Rio Hondo League finale for both teams.
The Tigers coach couldn’t have been more correct when he declared: “Monrovia is a very good team. They came out in the first quarter and just started scoring. They put us back on our heels and we just couldn’t get back (into the game). You have to give them credit. They’ve been scoring big on teams all season. We just came in with the mindset that we can’t back down and have to continue to fight. Our guys did that so I’m proud of them.”
Like all the other opponents on the Wildcats schedule, South Pasadena did little to prevent them from keeping their season record unblemished as Monrovia rolled to a lopsided 56-7 win, improving to 10-0, including a perfect 5-0 mark in league play.
The Wildcats are every bit as good as advertised said Chi, who is glad to put this contest behind him and concentrate on what’s ahead. The Tigers finished the 10-game regular season with a 5-5 overall record but, more importantly, their 3-2 league mark was good enough to lock up third place, allowing at least one more game to be played when the postseason begins next week. Their next opponent will be determined Sunday when CIF releases round one games of the playoff schedule.
“As far as our league is concerned they’re just above everyone else,” said Chi of the Wildcats. “There is no other team that we’ve played this season that is as good as Monrovia.”
Chi, his fellow coaches and players are looking forward to the opportunity to extend their season as the Tigers achieved one of their major goals – reaching the playoffs.
The Tigers’ coach emphasized to his club afterwards that preseason was one season No. 1, the regular campaign was season No. 2 “and now we have to get ready for the playoff season,” he said. “We have to flush this loss out the door and get ready for the next team we play.”
Held scoreless in the first quarter, the Tigers put their only points on a 10-yard run by Jack Riffle in the second period. The Wildcats jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter, led 35-7 at half, and 56-7, adding three more touchdowns in the third quarter. The officials let the clock run in the fourth period, as there was no scoring by either team.
There’s a reason Monrovia has gone undefeated, outscoring opponents 474 to 150 over the10 games its played. In six of those, the Wildcats scored more than 50 points, including twice going over 60. In a word they simply have been better than everyone else.
“They’re just dominant both running and passing, and their defense was very aggressive,” said Chi. “We did our best and that’s all we could do.”
He said the difference in this one was a potent Monrovia offense, a defense that gave up little yardage and two players in particular. Looking at film on senior Issac Hernandez all week, Chi said the Wildcats’ 5-foot-9, 205-pound running back was like “a human bowling ball who has a motor on him and it was hard to bring him down. We didn’t do a great job of getting low on the guy, making tackles to bring him down as he got some big yardage.”
Monrovia’s junior wide receiver Carlos Hernandez, at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, “has just got wheels as he ran through our secondary and made big plays,” noted Chi. “Hopefully, we won’t see anyone like those guys in the playoffs.”
Not to be overlooked, his club weathered through an up-and-down season, losing its first two games before coming away with a victory. The Tigers lost three out of their first four contests then put three straight wins together and began thinking about the postseason.
Following a loss to league runner-up Pasadena Poly the eighth week, South Pasadena managed a playoff bid in the ninth with a come-from-behind 24-21 win over rival San Marino, Tiger quarterback Jackson Freking finding receiver Grant Huntley on a 40-yard touchdown pass with 1:07 left in the game.
They may have stumbled in their final regular league encounter against a highly talented Monrovia team, but from where they came at the start of the season Chi likes the grit and determination from his squad, especially down the stretch when playoff hopes were on the line. At 3-2 in league the South Pasadena coach is pleased his team gets another week to play.
“We just have to focus on the end result for us and I’m happy for our guys in going to the playoffs,” said Chi. “I was proud of the way the guys fought tonight. I was also optimistic that we were playing against some pretty athletic players and the fact that we hung in there. If we play against some other teams in the playoffs that are not as big or fast, I think we’ll have a better chance.”