Better execution on offense is the focus this week as South Pasadena High attempts to get back to their winning ways of just two weeks ago when they wrapped up a 5-1 nonleague season and were quietly talking about a Rio Hondo League title, the first in 40 years.
San Marino, perhaps coming into last week’s game with a chip on its shoulder after a 1-6 preseason, quickly dimmed the Tigers’ championship hopes with a 10-7 victory, changing South Pasadena’s course of action as it now clings to CIF-SS playoff hopes.
One more slip and even that possibility will likely vanish.
Sweeping through their final three opponents, starting with Monrovia on the road Friday night, should put the Tigers into the postseason, but to make that happen Chi knows his club will have to play flawlessly against a 7-1 opponent, which includes a pair of league victories.
“We just have to come back and play better,” said South Pasadena High coach Jeff Chi. “We just didn’t come through. It wasn’t good execution in some areas, and we have to fix those things.”
The Tigers moved the ball in spurts against San Marino and put together another solid defensive game, but missed opportunities kept the Tigers out of the end zone. The Titans, as a result of their record, savored what appeared to be an upset, despite winning the last eight meetings between the two teams, Chi telling his players all week: “They have nothing to lose and will put it all on the field against us. We just didn’t get the job done.”
The Tigers’ coach wants to put loss in the rearview mirror, instead concentrating on what’s next, while convincing his club that postseason play is still within reach with a win Friday night.
“We still have three more games in league,” said Chi. “We have to take the opportunities we have, go forward, try to make it into the playoffs and have a good experience the rest of the way.”
To get there means getting past an athletic, physical team in Monrovia, South Pasadena’s toughest opponent to date.
In their balanced offensive attack, the Wildcats look to two senior running backs – Tyree Myles and Devin Mayes – to carry much of the load on the ground. In the seven games, Myles has 404 yards on 62 carries and Mayes has 339 more, packing the ball 49 times.
Monrovia also comes at teams with a vaunted passing game, looking to Mario Minor (43 catches for 883 yards) and Daylen Wilson (32 for 688) to do most of the work.
Guiding the offense is Wildcat quarterback Nick Hernandez, who has thrown for 2,101 yards on 183 attempts, averaging 18.8 yards, and thrown for 25 touchdowns through eight games.
Playing a tough preseason schedule, the Wildcats lone setback came to Los Altos of Hacienda Heights in the team’s third game when they fell to 2-1 on year. Since then, however, Monrovia has now won their last five contests, including 35-0 and 48-7 blowout victories over San Marino and Temple City, respectively, in league play the past two weeks.
On the other side, South Pasadena’s running back Ethan Hong has been the workhorse for the Tigers, carrying for 477 yards on 71 carries for a 6.7-yard average. Teammate Ivan Estrada is next with 15 carries for 125 yards for an 8.3 average.
Tigers quarterback Samuel Luna-Long, who has thrown for 1,241 yards on 104 attempts for a 17.2-yard average, will be looking to four main targets – Estrada (28 catches for 459 yards), Grant Huntley (17 for 323), Jonathan Stride (23 for 283) and Terrence Sweetman (9 for 250) – when the Tigers line up on offense against the Wildcats.
“They are a good team with a lot of athletic players and so we really have to play our hearts out and go after them,” said Chi, urging his players will take last week’s loss “to heart and go forward. It hurts for the kids. It hurts for the senior group. I hope they can bounce back and put it together for the remainder of the season.”