A guy who always seems to be around the flight of the football just happens to lead the state in interceptions.
Terrence Sweetman, only a junior, has made quite an impression in South Pasadena High’s defensive backfield, picking off 11 passes in 10 games, including three in last Friday’s blowout 40-10 win over visiting La Cañada in the Rio Hondo League finale.
“He just seems to have a knack of being around the ball,” said Tigers’ coach Jeff Chi of Sweetman, whose number of ball thefts ranks him seventh in the nation. “He continues to make big plays for us.”
Sweetman is not only known for his defense. On the offensive side of the ball, he is the third leading receiver, with 14 catches in 10 games for 291 yards. In front of him are Ivan Estrada with 34 receptions for 538 yards and Jonathan Stride who has pulled in 27 passes for 298 more.
Sweetman’s ability to make interceptions and catches along with the Tigers’ receivers will be a must on Friday night says the Tigers’ coach if South Pasadena High hopes to get past Fillmore in a first round CIF-Southern Section game on the road.
“We’re going to need a good game from everyone against these guys,” said Chi, looking ahead to the 7:30 matchup against the Flashes. “It’s not going to be easy for us. They’re a good team.”
Fillmore, located in Ventura County, enters the contest with a 7-1 overall record, losing only to Citrus Coast League Champion Nordoff 35-6.
Nordoff finished 4-0 in league play, followed by Fillmore and Santa Paula both at 2-1, Hueneme at 1-3 and Carpinteria 0-4.
The Tigers trailed frontrunner Monrovia (9-1, 4-0) and second place San Marino, both automatic qualifiers to reach the playoffs, in the standings. Monrovia hosts Santa Fe (3-7, 1-3) in a first round Division 9 game while San Marino (4-6, 3-1) travels to Orange (9-1, 5-0) in a Division 10 contest.
South Pasadena and Fillmore have three common opponents this season as Fillmore beat Viewpoint 42-8, La Canada 48-0 and Temple City 42-3. In contrast, South Pasadena, coming into the contest with a 7-3 record, including a 2-2 mark in the Rio Hondo League, got past Viewpoint 21-17 at home in the second game of the season, and closed out the regular season with wins over Temple City (21-14) and La Canada (40-10).
The Tigers, ranked No. 9 in CIF-SS Division 13, will be facing the No. 4 team.
Fillmore has a solid passing game behind the arm of senior Jared Schieferle, who has thrown for 1,468 yards and seven touchdowns, completing 89 of 165 passes. His biggest target is Ryan Gonzalez, a senior, who has pulled in 28 passes for 652 yards through eight games. Dylan Sierra has hauled in another 23 for 370 in six games and another seven for scores.
Senior Bryce Nunez is the Flashes’ big offensive threat on the ground, rushing for 757 yards in eight games on 83 carries for a 9.1-yard average.
The Tigers will counter with an offensive attack that had, perhaps, its finest outing of the season last Friday night, scoring 40 unanswered points against La Cañada once it got going. After a scoreless first quarter and trailing 10-0, South Pasadena scored 13 points in the second quarter, 14 more in the third and 13 in the fourth, setting themselves up to play in its first CIF playoff game since 2016.
Chi likes what he see in his quarterback, the athletic Samuel Luna-Long who has complete command of the Tigers’ offense, throwing for 1,431 yards in 148 attempts for a 15.4 average and 17 touchdowns over the stretch of the 10 game season.
A senior, he has thrown to seven different receivers, his biggest target being Ivan Estrada, who has 34 catches for 538 yards and seven touchdowns, including a pair last week against La Cañada, one of 35 and a second for 24. He also scored one on the ground from 11 yards out for a three touchdown night. Stride, a junior, is next with 27 receptions in nine games for 298 yards followed by sophomore Grant Huntley, who has 17 for 323 yards and four TDs.
Once he gets into the open field, Ethan Hong, a human-like bulldozer, gets charging, barrels his way down field and difficult to bring down. The senior is punishing defenses, rushing for 773 yards on 128 carries for a 6-yard average per carry to go along with his nine touchdowns. Second to Hong is Estrada with 190 yards on 21 carries, a 9-yard average, and two scores while Quentin Pithey has rushed for 132 yards on 37 carries, a 3.6-yard average, and four touchdowns.
“We’re hoping to pound the ball at them, keeping the game close until the fourth quarter and then coming away with a win,” said Chi, talking about how his club hopes to attack Fillmore. “I think the game will be won at the line of scrimmage. We’re going to need a big game from our guys up front.”
One area Fillmore has a clear advantage, noted Chi, is in the size of its roster. The Flashes will be suiting up more than 50 players, the Tigers about 30.
“Fortunately for us they can only put 11 players on the field,” Chi said laughing, “but they do have more players than us, so that’s a little bit of a concern.”
Chi is looking forward to taking his club on the road for the 59-mile drive to Fillmore for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. CIF battle.
“It’s going to be a good matchup,” he said. “I’m glad we’re in the playoffs, which was one of our big goals this season.”