Tigers Football | SPHS Now 5-0 to Start Football Season

After a bye week, South Pasadena High hosts Monrovia on Thursday, September 29, to open Rio Hondo League play.

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | SPHS Tigers football

A bye week couldn’t come at a better time said South Pasadena High football coach Jeff Chi, recognizing his undefeated team has two weeks to prepare for Monrovia, the perennial favorite, it seems, every year to win the Rio Hondo League championship.

While his team’s first priority during the break will be to get some of his players healthy – mainly starting quarterback Jackson Freking – Chi will use the extra time to find any weakness he can in a powerful Wildcat team, in anticipation to the league opener between the two clubs on Thursday, September 29 in South Pasadena.

Chi, who has got his team off to a 5-0 start, expects Freking to be back in the line-up for Monrovia. The final decision not to play the quarterback in the Tiger’s 29-14 win over Alhambra last Friday was made just hours before the game. Freking was still nursing a bruised heel suffered in South Pasadena’s 12-0 victory over Heritage Christian in week four.

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Chi said he was uneasy going into the contest not having the player who had guided South Pasadena’s offense all season, but was relieved early on after witnessing the play of backup Richard Conti, who successfully handled the role well.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” Chi noted, “but Conti did a fabulous job. He’s is a very athletic kid. We had him ready at the position all week long, just in case. He’s a smart kid and picked up things really well. We felt very comfortable with him in there. His decision-making was outstanding. We were very pleased with his performance.

It’s good to know we have another solid quarterback.”

In his debut, Conti, who normally plays receiver and had led the team in receptions over the first four games, settled in nicely behind center and hit on 9 of 14 of his passes for 93 yards and scored twice on the ground. He found Nick Eshom on a 65-yarder for his best pass of the night.

Justin Hong had another strong performance, carrying the ball 22 times for 104 yards and one touchdown. Aidan Kinney picked up another 61 yards, packing the ball only twice, one for a score and Matthew Takasugi collected 20 more on five carries.

“Hong had some tough yardage,” Chi said. “When we needed it, he pounded the ball and got the first down.”

Eshom also came up big defensively with an interception, joining Quinn Stirling, who also picked off one.

“I have to hand it to our defense,” said Chi. “They really did a great job of holding Alhambra to little yardage.”

A Tiger turnover at their own 10 gave Alhambra a short field for one touchdown the Moors put up their only other points late in the game, scoring on South Pasadena’s second unit.

South Pasadena held a 14-7 lead at the half, pulled away 29-7 after three periods, went scoreless in the third, and limited the Moors to one touchdown.

Without Conti in his normal receiver spot, Chi was forced to move some players around while telling the team to always be ready to step in when your name is called. “Our guys really did a great job of subbing for him,” said Chi. “We always tell them they will be given an opportunity some day, so you have to be ready, and they were.”

Monrovia comes into South Pasadena with a 3-1 mark, winning its first three games against Bonita (36-35 OT), Arcadia (49-14) and El Rancho (58-26) before losing to Ayala 41-0 last Friday.

“We’re going to be watching a lot of film on these guys,” said Chi, talking about his team’s next opponent. “Monrovia is a very good football team. We’ll be implementing our offensive and defensive game plan this week, then go and watch them play on Friday night and make some adjustments. It’s really nice to have two weeks to get ready for them.”

San Dimas (3-2) travels to play the 3-1 Wildcats on Friday in a 7 p.m. matchup.

“I know we’re the huge underdog against those guys,” said Chi. “But we’re going to go after them to see what the outcome will be.”

Following Friday’s game, Chi told his team to enjoy the win, but the preseason is now over and it’s time to regroup as the league campaign gets underway.

“We’re 0-0 again, the games are going to be tough, and we open with a big challenge ahead of us against Monrovia,” he said. “We have to prepare mentally, physically and go after them.”

The Wildcats, South Pasadena, La Canada and San Marino all look to be the top seeds, with Pasadena Poly and Temple City struggling at this point.

“It’s going to be a tough league,” Chi said. “Among those four teams, it’s going to be a battle every week. This is what we’ve been preparing for in the preseason. I think our kids are building confidence and chemistry within themselves. I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”