Naturally, emotions will be running high when the two schools meet in Friday’s rivalry game, but South Pasadena High football coach Jeff Chi believes if his team plays “our game,” as he likes to put it, the Tigers have a good chance of coming out on top against San Marino in a key matchup for both teams.
“We just try to emphasize the importance of the game and how focused we need to be,” said Chi. “I don’t want them to overdo anything to be anxious. I don’t want them to do anything to be out of synch or out of their comfort zone. As long as they play within themselves like they’ve been doing all season, I think they will be fine.
“But they really need to focus,” he continued, “because I know San Marino is going to come into this one looking to knock us off, try and take it to us because they have a chance of locking up second place if they beat us. So, I know it’s a huge game for them as well.”
The runner-up spot in the Rio Hondo League is up for grabs between the Titans and the Tigers, and even La Cañada, in Rio Hondo League play behind frontrunner Monrovia (7-2, 4-0). Should the Tigers lose, South Pasadena, San Marino and La Cañada could all be in a three-way tie for second place. La Canada (5-4, 2-2) finishes up against Pasadena Poly (1-7, 1-3) on Thursday night. The top three teams in league quality for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.
Chi stressed he’d like to avoid a loss to the Titans and a La Cañada victory over Pasadena Poly, which would cause all kinds of confusion. “We have to go out and really play a good game and take it to them,” he said about the importance in winning this week.
South Pasadena goes into San Marino for the 7 p.m. game with an 8-1 overall record, 3-1 in league, set to play a Titan squad that is 4-5, 2-2. The Tigers are coming off a 27-7 win over Pasadena Poly last Friday at the L.A. Coliseum while the Titans fell to Monrovia 45-16.
The previous three games between the South Pasadena and San Marino have been decided by three points or less.
It wasn’t easy, but the Tigers broke a 10-game losing streak to the Titans last year with a 24-21 victory at home. South Pasadena needed nearly every second of the clock to win as quarterback Jackson Freking found Grant Huntley, who hauled in the winning touchdown with 1:07 left in the game.
“It was a great feeling just the way we won it,” remembers Chi.
In 2020, San Marino won a close one, 22 – 20, on a field goal helped by a South Pasadena pass interference penalty, putting the Titans in position to kick it with little time left from 25 yards out.
In 2019, it was much of the same, the Titans winning another close one, 10-7.
“It’s kind of like USC and UCLA game,” Chi said. “When the teams meet, all the records go out the window that one day. We just have to come prepared, ready to go.”
Before last year’s victory, the Tigers had not picked up a win against their rival since Ed Smith coached South Pasadena to a 42-20 victory in 2010.
Longtime Titans’ coach Mike Hobbie, who resigned his position as both San Marino’s football and baseball coach earlier in 2019, took over as football coach in 2011, compiling a 72-24-1 record and never lost to South Pasadena from 2011 to 2019.
In 2015, under his guidance, the Titans won the CIF Southern Section divisional crown and advanced to the state championship game. Hobbie announced his retirement in January 2019, promising to coach the baseball team in the spring, and left the teaching profession and coaching at the school in June of that year.
In traditional fashion, South Pasadena and San Marino will be playing for The Plaque, which carries the scores of all the games played between the two schools, and Crowley Cup, established in 2010 in honor of Paul Crowley, who never played in the rivalry matchup or participated in varsity high school football. However, as a fan Crowley witnessed every contest in the series, beginning with the first meeting in 1955 to 2012 – an uninterrupted streak of 58 games. The game between the schools began in 1955 when San Marino High School was built and students left South Pasadena-San Marino High School, located at the present site of South Pasadena High.
Paul Crowley died in December 2012 at the age of 84, but, as his son, Jon, once noted, “the Crowley family is committed to continuing the great tradition and healthy rivalry between these two schools and neighboring cities.”
According to Jon, his father, a 1945 graduate of San Marino-South Pasadena High School, “had a staunch devotion to both of these schools, to both of these cities, and to this annual local rivalry,” he added in 2019. “His legacies to this game include his lifelong promotion of both cities, his civic volunteerism and a deep love of high school football.”
The initial San Marino-South Pasadena game between the two schools ended in a 27-0 victory by San Marino in front of a crowd of some 6,000, as the Titans went undefeated that season. It was the beginning of a classic contest that both campuses anticipate now in its 68th year. San Marino leads the series 35-29-3.
With plenty of success on the field this season, Chi wants his players to have nothing but a positive experience Friday night as the 2022 campaign winds down.
A lot on the line with second place in league at stake, Chi said his players will be ready to go.
“It’s a huge game,” said the Tigers’ coach. “Our guys are really looking forward to it.”
What’s it going to take to win? he was asked.
“We just have to play our game,” said Chi, like he’s stressed all season long.