It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, insists South Pasadena High football coach Jeff Chi as the Tigers prepare to play their home opener Saturday night when they host Viewpoint of Calabasas in the second of five non-league football contests.
“We just made too many mistakes,” said the Tigers’ coach after last week’s 37-20 loss to Lincoln of Los Angeles. “It’s really that simple. Every team is going to have them, but we had more than our opponent, and that was the difference.”
South Pasadena was in it up until late in the game when Lincoln pulled away for good. “I have to give those guys credit,” said Chi. “I think they did a better job of blocking up front on offense and a better job than us in tackling on defense. I think they were a little more aggressive than our boys were in this one.”
On Saturday, Chi watched a tape of the contest and said his club “didn’t follow the game plan in some areas, missed some assignments and made mistakes, a few that were game changers. We talked about it as a team and hopefully we’ll fix them and play better as a result.”
South Pasadena had four turnovers, including two near Lincoln’s goal line to go along with four dropped passes, making it difficult to make a comeback. “The other thing is we just didn’t tackle well,” Chi said. “I just know we can play better. We have the talent. We just have to clean some things up.”
Lincoln held a 7-6 lead after the first quarter, went up 24-20 at the half, and scored twice in the fourth quarter while South Pasadena tallied all its points in the first half. Lincoln’s 13-point barrage in the final 12 minutes was too much to overcome.
“Football is a game of momentum and making plays, and looking at the talent level of both sides, we were pretty evenly matched,” Chi explained. “But they executed better than we did. They just played better than us. We just didn’t match their energy. Turnovers and a momentum switches caused our downfall.”
The tide shifted for the visitors in this one on two key turnovers inside Lincoln’s 10, one on a fumble at the one and another on a pass interception in the end zone. “So, right there, that’s 14 points that we lost that turned into their opportunities,” said Chi. “We were driving down the field and couldn’t punch it in. We just have to do a better job of not making those mistakes.”
South Pasadena quarterback Noah Aragon finished the night, hitting on 13 of 27 passes for 219 yards, picked up 40 yards on the ground, had a 10-yard TD run, and tossed a 65-yard scoring pass to Grant Huntley. Aragon’s touchdown pass traveled nearly 50 yards through the air before Huntley hauled it in and outran several Lincoln defenders for the score. On the flip side, three of his passes were picked off. The first of Aragon’s interceptions came off of a tipped pass.
Huntley had a solid night with seven receptions for 131 yards, including the long touchdown catch. In the defensive backfield he made five tackles, two for a loss, and was locked in on Lincoln’s receivers most of the way.
Tigers’ running back Jack Riffle had 18 carries for 88 yards, including a 4-yard run for a score. He caught a pair of passes for 53 yards and picked up 72 yards on kickoff returns.
Linebackers Alex Gonzalez and Quinn Stirling recorded nine tackles each to lead the South Pasadena defense. Sawyer Fox contributed a sack from his defensive end position.
Held scoreless in the second half, Chi stressed that the Tigers need to improve on its inconsistent play. “One series we looked good, and the next we didn’t. Again, we were off on our assignments and it’s hard to understand why. I think it was lack of experience some of our players had.”
Viewpoint will be playing its first game of the season when it comes to South Pasadena for the 7 p.m. game on Saturday. “We have enough talent to turn it around,” said Chi. “I think our running back is really good, our quarterback is really good, our receivers are really good.”
The offensive line is missing a starter, forcing the Tigers to develop younger talent at the position. “While it isn’t ideal, we’ll help those players, and find a way to get better,” said Chi. “It’s only one game. This loss should not define the rest of the season. We just have to improve and go after Viewpoint.”
Henry Cox contributed to this story.