It only gets tougher from here as South Pasadena High’s non-league football season rolls into week four.
In what will be their biggest test, the Tigers face undefeated Heritage Christian when the two teams square off on Friday night at Roosevelt Field.
Both teams come into the 7 p.m. kickoff with perfect records three weeks into the season.
“Heritage Christian is 3-0 for a reason,” said South Pasadena coach Jeff Chi, whose team is coming off a dominant 53-0 victory over Marshall last Thursday. “They run the ball effectively, set up screens well, and make big plays passing.”
The Tigers had little trouble in handing the Barristers their third straight loss, putting the game away early. This one wasn’t close from the get-go. South Pasadena took a 40-0 lead into the locker room at the half after scoring 34 first quarter points, and another six in the second before pumping on the brakes, scoring only 13 in the third quarter to end the onslaught.
With the score way up for the home team, officials allowed for a running clock, starting midway through the second quarter and into the final two periods. The game ended quickly from there.
From the initial kickoff, South Pasadena had little trouble moving the ball while recording its first shutout of the season. The Tigers have allowed only 13 points all season.
Jackson Freking, under center for South Pasadena, had another solid outing, completing 10 of 12 passes for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Richard Conti – one for 44 yards and a second for 90. In three games, the senior quarterback has yet to throw a touchdown, much to Chi’s liking. Joining Conti with some big catches were James Dowd, who had three catches for 57 yards and Quinn Sterling, adding one for 12.
“I think the execution on the offensive side, passing the football, was really good,” said the Tigers coach. “Our receivers got open in their zone, and Freking made some good decisions to get the ball to them. We also made some good connections on the long ball as well. I was very pleased with the performance of the quarterback and receivers.”
Jason Hong, the Tigers’ top running back who also plays middle linebacker on defense, was removed from the game after a second quarter roughing penalty, and replaced by Luke Riffle, who turned in a fine performance, rushing for 51 yards on six carries. Matthew Takasugi picked up another 68, carrying the ball seven times while Sawyer Fox, Aidan St. John, Gionani Cruz and Freking all chipped into the effort on the ground with a solid effort.
Overpowering Marshall’s defense, South Pasadena racked up a whopping 435 total yards rushing and passing on the night.
And on the other side of the ball, the Tigers were just as effective. “Defensively, we just rallied around the ball well,” Chi said. “We didn’t let them get into a flow. They threw the ball on us a little bit in the second quarter but other than that, I think we had the game under control.”
Heritage Christian narrowly got past the Tigers last season, winning 28-20, Chi saying: “It’s going to be another tough game. We had a chance to beat them at the end but just came up a little short. They have a number of players returning from last year’s squad, so we’re going to really have to prepare for it.”
To get past their next opponent, Chi said South Pasadena will need to control the line of scrimmage to slow down the Warriors’ running game and put pressure on the team’s quarterback in order to “disrupt his timing when they’re throwing down field and on screen plays.”
Chi stressed the importance this week for his team to put the Warriors in a situation where they are starting drives deep in their own territory. “Our kicker was coming off COVID recovery and struggled a little bit last week,” Chi said. “We need to make the other team drive 80 yards or more.”
Following the Heritage Christian matchup, the Tigers conclude the preseason with a road game on September 16 to Alhambra. South Pasadena then has a week off before opening the Rio Hondo League schedule at Monrovia, to face off against the defending champions on Thursday, September 29. The Tigers then host Temple City on Oct. 7, before three straight road games at La Cañada October 14, Pasadena Poly October 20, and San Marino October 28 to conclude the regular season.
“We open league against a really good team in Monrovia,” said Chi. “That’s going to be huge. They’re a big and fast team. We know how good they are. We’re going to try and pull it out. It has happened in the past, so we’re going to strive for that.”