It’s a combination South Pasadena High hasn’t had in awhile, and C.B. Richards, a coach seemingly for all seasons, is enjoying the opportunity to be a part of the youth movement and culture he hopes to change with the frosh/soph football program.
The Tigers have blended what once were individual freshmen and junior varsity teams into one frosh/soph unit.
“It’s a lot of fun coaching these guys,” said Richards, who co-coaches the team with Ed Smith, a staple on campus at one time as the longtime varsity coach. Richards doesn’t stray far from the stadium, where he spends much of his time developing athletes also serving as SPHS’s head track coach. Yet, these days, most of his attention is spent on building a strong football program.
“We haven’t had a freshman/sophomore team in quite some time and its great to get these guys ready to play at the varsity level,” he said.
The team is comprised of some members who played in the program a year ago, along with first-year players, many of whom have never strapped on a football helmet.
“For the younger players,” Richards explained, “they can learn the job from those who have been with us awhile. So the learning curve is a lot faster because your older brother knows already what to do. The practices and competitiveness is a lot higher. Freshman players, because they’re around older, experienced players, are really stepping up and learning the game a lot faster.”
The roster includes 47 players, which Richards says “is great” because players can now concentrate on position as opposed to playing both offense and defense in the former freshman/JV alignment.
“Instead of being average at two positions, they can be great at one thing and better prepared when they move up to the varsity level,” said Richards.
South Pasadena rolled to a 33-0 victory over Rosemead in its opener two weeks ago, before recording a 34-34 tie against Pasadena Poly last week. Richards likes what he sees in the first two contests but would like them “to be a little tougher in regards to tackling and blocking,” he said. “They’re a smart team and if they continue what they’re doing they could have a pretty successful year. They’re a fun bunch and very hungry to learn. They’re asking a lot of questions, their energy level is high, but have a lot to learn.”
After leaving the SPHS varsity program several years ago, Smith is back running practices and calling plays from the sideline during games while Richards, also the varsity coach, is there drawing up X’s and O’s, but handles all the administrative duties as well.
While Smith handles the offense, longtime coach Jeff Chi calls the defense. It’s a combination that seems to be working. “Our players are young, many just learning the sport, so I’m enjoying teaching them how to play football,” said Smith. “I’m trying to instill in them the right way to play. It’s a good chance to get them early when they’re young and put them on the right track in preparation for varsity.”
Smith is enjoying his retirement years, playing a lot of golf, going to the horse races, mixed in with relaxation, but says he enjoys coming back to the South Pasadena High campus to be apart of the program. “Hopefully, these young kids will learn a lot, enjoy being out here and help us build a solid program,” he said.
Smith, who coached the South Pasadena High varsity for 16 years and served as an assistant for 14 more years, was the Tigers’ last coach to beat San Marino. That was back in 2010. “Maybe it’s time we start turning that around,” said Smith. “At one point we won five straight against those guys, so hopefully it’s coming back the other way. That’s what we’re working on – beat those guys again.”
He especially likes coming back on campus, “not only to give myself something to do, but help these young players develop into good football players,” said Smith. “It has been a lot of fun so far.”