It remains a question mark whether or not South Pasadena High’s football team will close out an already COVID-19 shortened season Friday night against Temple City based on what happened just prior to their last scheduled game.
As unusual as times are these days in the coronavirus era, it just got more unusual with the cancellation of the Tigers’ contest three games into a four game springtime time schedule.
Following a 36-30 victory over La Cañada in week one, followed by a narrow 22-20 loss to rival San Marino – both on the road – South Pasadena was looking to turn on its stadium lights for the first time last Friday for the first of two home encounters and potentially finish off the abbreviated campaign with a 3-1 record if all went well against Monrovia and Temple city in the final contests.
However, in the hours leading up to the Monrovia matchup, SPHS Athletic Director Anthony Chan made the difficult decision to not host Friday’s game, saying in a text message: “We didn’t have enough players to safely hold a match. We will regroup and look to next week.”
Tigers’ coach Jeff Chi said a couple of key unnamed players who pulled out of the contest played heavily into the decision not to host the game.
“It’s just an unfortunate situation,” he explained. “I would say a majority of the players wanted to play. I was very disappointed. I was very sad, a little angry, upset and had all the mixed emotions that came with it.”
Chi said some parents of players expressed concern to both him and Chan that Monrovia’s dominance over South Pasadena in recent years might carry over this year, making it difficult for the Tigers to come out on top.
“I think they would have been okay to compete,” Chi said of his team. “If they did lose or get a little beat up they could live with that. We as coaches make decisions for all those who are involved, not just individuals. From a parent’s perspective I understand, but there’s an understanding that a player is part of a team who has to show accountability, dedication and commitment. You kind of have to trust the coaching staff is going to do everything right for the kids.
“Sometimes we’re physically outmatched, but we come out of it,” continued the coach. “You can’t think about what ifs, what ifs, what ifs. What’s the point of competing? That’s the hardest part to swallow. Once the players pulled out, it became a safety issue because we didn’t have enough backups to fill in for those guys. They were a huge part of our offense.”
La Cañada, a team the Tigers knocked off three weeks ago before a bye, is slated to face Monrovia on the following Friday after blanking San Marino 35-0 in its most recent outing.
“Sometimes in life you face obstacles, you have to deal with it, take some punches where you have to get up and keep going,” said Chi. “If you say, ‘It’s too tough, hey let’s not play,’ I think you’re sending the wrong message.”
What’s next is uncertain until Chi meets with Chan and his coaching staff to look down the road, determining if the Temple City game on Friday will be played. Not only would it be the Tigers’ traditional homecoming but the Rams, a team that came together only three weeks ago, will be facing their first and only opponent.
“Based on just what happened, we may just call the season,” he said. “I support that in a way, but at the same time if the kids still have a chance to play, especially the seniors, I don’t want to take that away from them either. Whatever they want to do I will support, but I also have to do the right thing for the players.”