Jeff Chi has lost track of the exact number, instead simply saying he’s been coaching football for a long time.
Who’s counting? Not Chi, who has got his 2022 varsity unit off to a quick 2-0 start after the Tigers handed Maywood a 37-6 loss on the road Friday night. The Wolfpack dropped to 0-2.
“I love the game of football,” said Chi, “but I don’t always remember the numbers, how long I’ve been a head coach or an assistant here or there”
The best guess, Chi has been with the South Pasadena High program off-and-on since 1998, making coaching stops at Hoover, Cathedral and even La Canada Jr. All-American at the youth level. Over the years, he’s coached on both sides of the ball serving as both an offensive and defensive coordinator along the way.
While his coaching career numbers are a little hazy, he’s certain of his role when it comes to Tiger football.
“I’m here to help the players play their best, and represent the school and city well,” said Chi, a member of the community who is married to Felecia, a SPHS graduate like himself. The couple has two children – Jasmine 24 and Gavin 23 – the latter a former South Pasadena High football player and now assistant football coach with the Tigers, supporting his dad.
“Showing up everyday and working hard is what I expect from my players,” explained Chi, whose club opened the season with a 28-7 victory over Lincoln. “Listening and learning from their mistakes, correcting them, and moving forward in a positive way are some of the things I expect from our guys.”
And if his team is committed, disciplined, preservers, and continues to show a strong work ethic, Chi believes the chances of winning on Friday nights will be much easier.
Tigers running back Jason Hong had a big night in the Tigers win over Maywood, scoring three times. Zele Gavlak added a 25-yard touchdown run and quarterback Jackson Freking tossed a 50-yard scoring pass to Rich Conti as South Pasadena’s offense had little trouble moving the ball. The Tigers’ defense stopped Maywood most of the night, allowing just one score late in the game.
The Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter, led 30-0 at the half, and put up another seven points in the third period to close out its scoring.
“We want to play hard aggressive football for the league season,” he said before the game. “Our kids really worked hard during the off-season and are focused in accomplishing some great things. I think the chemistry is coming together slowly. Hopefully, when league play comes around they will be clicking on all cylinders and be a well balanced team of running and passing, and have another good run at the league title and playoffs.”
With a pair of victories to open the season, South Pasadena likes the idea of playing back-to-back home games against Marshall of Los Angeles and Northridge on September 1 and September 9, respectively, before winding up their non-league campaign at Alhambra on September 16.
After a bye and time to reset, South Pasadena heads into the Rio Hondo League season on September 29, facing Monrovia at home in the first of five games. The Tigers are home again in their second league encounter, this time against Temple City on October 7. From there, South Pasadena takes on La Canada (October 14), Pasadena Poly and San Marino in three scheduled road contests.
“We have a great group of players and I like what I see,” said Chi at the start of season. “If they continue to work hard then I think we’ll be okay.”