SPHS Football | Tigers Play Marshall High Thursday

South Pasadena High running back Jack Riffle caught two touchdown passes in the Tigers 33-14 loss to Baron of Kern County last Friday night, but the Tigers are still looking for their first victory after falling to 0-2 on the season

FILE PHOTO: Esteban Lopez | SouthPasadenan.com News | SPHS Varsity football team

After dropping their second straight game, this time 33-14 to Boron High, which traveled a long distance to play South Pasadena High last Friday night, Tigers coach Jeff Chi found himself putting the loss into perspective with his team the following morning.

“I told them the ultimate goal is to be successful in league,” explained Chi, as his players were back on campus early Saturday watching film of the defeat to the Bobcats, who took a 2-½ hour bus ride from Kern County to pick up their first win of the young season.

Digging themselves into a 0-2 hole, still in search of their first victory with three more non-league games on their schedule, Chi said the Tigers ultimate goal is to “improve and get better” in anticipation to the 5-game league season starting in about a month.

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“Even if we do go 0-5 in preseason, but improve and get better and have a successful winning percentage in league, I’ll take that,” he said. “We have to keep this in perspective for the kids. Two losses is not the end-all. It’s a reality check, ‘Hey, we need to improve!”

South Pasadena plays Marshall of Los Angeles in a rare Thursday game on the road this week before heading to Northridge on Saturday, September 11 to take on Heritage Christian. Neighboring Alhambra comes to town on September 17 to round out the Tigers non-league schedule.

From there, it’s game on, according to Chi, as the Rio Hondo season begins. The 5-game slate includes, in order of successive weeks, Temple City, La Cañada, Pasadena Poly, San Marino and Monrovia.

By then, Chi hopes his team will cut down on the mistakes and turnovers, which have played heavily in the Tigers pair of losses. The battle cry this week against Marshall, noted the Tigers’ coach, will be “protect the ball. Second, stay with your blocks, and defensively, hustle to the ball. If we do those things, I think we’ll be okay.”

South Pasadena prepared to host Viewpoint of Calabasas most of last week, but when a Patriot player tested positive for COVID-19, forcing others to be quarantined, the game was called off. Just hours later, in an 11th hour effort, Boron was put on the schedule, even agreeing to come the Tigers’ way to play the contest.   

The Bobcats, 1-1, took control early, jumping out to a 15-0 after the first quarter lead before South Pasadena put its first points on the board just before the half on a screen pass to running back Jack Riffle, who rolled around the left side from 43 yards out for the score. After a leaping interception by Aidan Kinney, Tigers crept closer in the third quarter, making it 21-14 on a 7-yard pass to Riffle, capping a 45-yard drive but Baron then took control from that point “on some silly plays on our part, turnovers, mistakes, not capitalizing on things and that was it,” said Chi,” and we couldn’t recover.”

South Pasadena quarterback Noah Aragon hit on 21 of 28 passes for 188 yards on the night, threw a pair of TD passes, carried five times for 33 yards and fumbled once.

Tigers wide receiver Grant Huntley went out during the Tigers’ first drive with a shoulder injury and did not return, but Aragon still had plenty of targets as Riffle finished with seven catches for 65 yards to go along with his two scores through the air. He also carried the ball five times for 24 yards, but had two fumbles.

Richard Conti hauled in seven of Aragon’s passes for 38 yards, Jackson Freking had four for 67 yards and Quinn Stirling also had four for another 18. Defensively, the Tigers’ middle linebacker Alex Gonzales had 11 tackles, and Stirling from his outside linebacker post contributed 10 to lead the team. With only a minute left in the game and the winner already determined, South Pasadena forced a fumble, putting some energy back on the Tigers’ sideline as Dominic Rosenberg came up with it.

Hoping to turn around the slow start to the season, Chi said once the league campaign gets underway, “the goal is to finish first or second, get to the (CIF) playoffs and hopefully we’ll have a winning streak there.”

In Thursday’s 4:00 p.m. matchup, the Tigers will be playing a team that has played one game, a 63-0 loss to Mary Star of the Sea. “They’ll have had two weeks to prepare for us, so I’m sure they will have improved,” said Chi, explaining his next opponent plays out of the spread offense. “We told our guys that we just have to focus on limiting our mistakes. I think that will eliminate a lot of problems for us. We just have to do our part.”