When it was over, South Pasadena High football coach Jeff Chi told his team to forget about the loss and focus on Temple City, the Tigers’ week 9 opponent.
Blowout losses like the one South Pasadena experienced Friday night have a way of making coaches quickly want to turn the chapter and move onto the next one.
Chi is no exception, urging his players to put the lopsided 49-7 defeat to Monrovia behind them and concentrate on the task at hand – the final two weeks of a campaign where plenty is still at stake.
He told his squad to not come into the team’s usual Saturday morning film session and light stretching workout at the school and stay home instead, telling players to apply ice to their wounds sustained in the drubbing on the road, relax and get healthy for the next game.
He asked his club, assembled before him for his postgame remarks, to start thinking about their encounter against Temple City, asking: “Do you think you can beat TC?”
In unison, Tiger players yelled, “Yes sir!”
Chi quickly responded: “That’s all I need to know, so let’s focus on them and go after it.”
The message to his team, which fell to 5-3 overall on the season and 0-2 in Rio Hondo League play with the defeat, was to believe in themselves.
Chi knows the road will only get easier from here as the Tigers close out the league season with a road game against the Rams on Friday, October 25, before playing their regular season finale November 1, hosting La Cañada on homecoming night.
The South Pasadena coach hopes to close out the season with two wins, giving the Tigers a 2-2 mark in league and a third place finish. Given their 7-3 overall record with two league victories, Chi believes it will be good enough to get his team into the CIF-Southern Section playoffs as an at-large berth.
Friday night’s victory over South Pasadena keeps the Wildcats in first place with a 3-0 league mark, 8-1 overall on the season. In their last three outings Monrovia has given up just 21 points, seven each to South Pasadena, Temple City and San Marino, while scoring 132. The path in beating the Wildcats only got longer as the Tigers haven’t recorded a win over Monrovia since 2004.
“It was a tough challenge for us,” said a somber Chi, looking for a quick fix to a two-game losing streak. “Number-wise and physically, they were just a more aggressive than we were. We came out of this one with no injuries, which is a positive thing, and now we just have to win our next two games and qualify for the playoffs. That’s our goal. I think our guys are ready for it. We just want to make sure they’re healthy, ready to go.”
The Tigers trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and 42-0 at the half, forcing the CIF mandated running clock in the second half or essentially 24 straight minutes without interruption as time quickly expired with no timeouts.
The Wildcats scored their final touchdown in the third quarter when it was long decided, and South Pasadena put its seven points on the board in the closing two minutes of the fourth period when fullback Ethan Hong carried it over from the one, finishing off an 80-yard, 9-play drive.
Playing against Monrovia reserves getting some playing time in as the clock ticked down, Hong rushed for 40 yards in the drive while Jonathan Choi hauled in a pass for 22 more and Brian Zepeda contributed 10 on a pair of carries, including a critical 2-yard gain on third down that kept the chains moving.
By then it mattered little, as the Tigers were glad to do anything positively on offense.
It was rough going from the start as Hong was held to just 55 yards on 16 carries on the night, gaining most of it on that last hope to score. Moving the ball down field, teammate Ivan Estrada gained just 11 yards on two catches, Stride 3 more for 9, Choi two for 30, and Terrence Sweetman one for 9.
Tiger quarterback Samuel Luna-Long struggled to get the offense going most of the night, completing 8 of 16 passes for 59 yards, 31 of which came during South Pasadena’s scoring drive.
After taking the game’s opening kickoff, it took Monrovia only eight plays to go 69 yards as Wildcat quarterback Nick Hernandez found Daylen Wilson from 25 yards out, giving Monrovia a quick 7-0 lead with 9:48 left in the first quarter.
There weren’t many bright spots in this one for the Tigers, but one came in the second quarter when Sweetman, now on defense, picked off a Hernandez pass, but it wasn’t long before the Tigers were punting again, this one a solid effort by Luna-Long, sending it 47 yards.
Taking the ball from their own 13, the Wildcats were back in the end zone six plays later, as Hernandez launched an 81-yard touchdown strike to Wilson, a player who looks like he’s got a bright college football future ahead of him.
As the second quarter was just getting underway following a 20-yard punt by the Tigers, the Wildcats struck again, this time Zeph Pascasio going in on the ground from 25 yards, making it 21-0.
The Wildcats took over on downs on South Pasadena’s 42 and went the distance, Tyree Myles finishing off the drive by literally walking in the final yard untouched, increasing the score to 28-0 with 8:34 to go in the second quarter.
After forcing a South Pasadena punt, on first down Hernandez, showcasing Monrovia’s explosiveness once more, tossed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Mario Minor two minutes later and the Wildcats’ sideline was full of jubilation, up 35-0.
The teams traded punts, and with just under two minutes in the first half following a fumble by the Tigers at midfield, the Wildcats – looking like a runaway train – were back in the end zone on a 30-yard pass from Hernandez to Myles, making it 42-0 at the break.
Following a second Tiger fumble at their own 33, Monrovia took advantage of another opportunity and drove it to the South Pasadena one, where Jesse Rivera punched it into end zone, the Wildcats scoring with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter.
That set the stage for some brief South Pasadena heroics as Hong scored the Tigers’ lone TD with about five minutes left in the game.
At halftime and the game essentially over, Chi told Tiger players to “gut it out,” he said. “They did, and I’m proud of them for that, but obviously we need a lot of improvement before we play Temple City.”
Chi knows he won’t see a team as physical and athletic as Monrovia again in league play, saying: “They (Temple City) are more comparable to us. We just have to do our job, be disciplined and execute a little bit better. That’s something we kind of fell away from a little bit against Monrovia.”
It seems like the Rio Hondo League is about Monrovia winning it all, then every other team duking it out for second place. “Pretty much,” agreed Chi, praising the Wildcats’ potent play on both sides of the ball. “Their coaching staff did a good job in preparing for us. They have really good athletes. You have to give them credit. They’re going to do well in the playoffs.”
Tigers’ defensive coordinator Brandon Wilson knew going in South Pasadena would be facing a “fast and athletic,” team, noting the Wildcats are difficult for any opponent, especially with so much explosiveness on offense.
“You have to respect talent,” he said. “Athletic ability sometimes overcomes everything else.”
And it’s easy to see – Monrovia has plenty of it.