Shhhhhh! Keep this quiet, as South Pasadena High and San Marino are about to play each other tonight in one of the biggest rivalry games ever between the two teams. The Tigers are only two wins away from winning their first Rio Hondo League title since 1976.
Yet, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, warns South Pasadena High coach C.B. Richards, taking the one game at a time approach, knowing tonight’s 7 p.m. road contest is pivotal in his club’s quest to grab that elusive championship.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” said a smiling Richards, well aware what’s at stake as his team prepares to play its final two games of the regular season, a big one against San Marino, the defending C.I.F. champions, before facing off against Monrovia November 4 on the Tigers’ homecoming and Senior Night.
South Pasadena High comes into tonight’s contest with an impressive 7-1 record, including an unblemished 3-0 Rio Hondo League mark, while the Titans are 4-4 overall, 2-1 in league following a 14-7 loss to Monrovia last week.
With both San Marino and Monrovia losing a bulk of their solid players to graduation last June, it appears this is the year the title is there for the taking, South Pas looks to be in a position to grab it.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” again said a guarded Richards, arms folded, looking straight ahead as his team practiced in preparation for a game that could further the Tigers’ hopes for league crown. “The kids know what’s at stake. We’re just taking it one at time.”
Richards has great respect for Titans’ coach Mike Hobbie, who has never lost to a South Pas. “He gets the most out of his players,” said Richards. “They were a big passing team a year ago. They’re running the ball more this season, but can also pass the ball, too. They’re a strong team, league champs. This is a respected rivalry. Truthfully, we respect them a lot. It’ll probably come down to the fourth quarter and who executes the best.”
There’s an expectation level surrounding the South Pasadena High football program that Richards’ players have embraced. “My expectations are now their expectations,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to build around here. We expect to be good, to challenge for league championships, and our players know it. That’s a huge thing to overcome with a team, but hopefully we’re getting closer. The players are starting to believe they can be champions.”
Richards, the Tigers’ second-year coach, stressed all the success since taking over the program couldn’t have been accomplished without a dedicated coaching staff. “Without their commitment we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said. “They understand my way of doing things and are doing a great job.”
A smiling Richards said he’s looking forward to tonight’s game and evening the long series, which the Titans hold a slim 30-29-3 advantage.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said, knowing South Pasadena hasn’t seen “The Plaque” and “Crowley Cup,” two awards up for grabs in the game, since 2010. “Our kids will be ready.”
Some players on South Pasadena High’s roster were asked: What’s it going to take to beat San Marino?
Adam Arellano, quarterback, Senior
“I think we’re really going to play a really good offensive second half against those guys. I know we’ll come out strong and score in the first half. We have to finish strong and be almost perfect every play. I like the way our defense is playing this year and we’re scoring plenty of points, but we have to play better in the second half.”
Franco (“Coby”) Pineda, center, Senior
“It’s going to take a complete team effort. Everyone is going execute offensively, defensively and on special teams. We need to win the battle every single play. This is a big game. It’s a good rivalry. It has been a long time since we’ve beaten those guys. None us (current players) have ever beaten them. We have a great chance of bringing the Plaque back home.”
Jonathan Calderon, WR, CB, Senior
“It’s going to take a team effort. We need to have some great practices. In two blowout wins earlier this season, we really had good practices. I’m hoping this is the year we finally beat them. It kind of bothers some of us that they went on to win the CIF last year and our season ended in the first round (of the playoffs). We’re really looking forward to stepping up our play against San Marino and getting the win.”
Thomas Huff, FB, DE, Senior
“We need to be disciplined and the offensive line has to control the game. Our defense ususally gets it done, but offensively we’ve come out a little slow in the second half, and we need to fix that. If we can play a full game, like our coaches have been telling us, I think we’ll be okay. The league title is definitely up for grabs. We have a huge chance to do some crazy things we haven’t done before. As long as our veteran O-line holds it together, I think we an handle it.”
Justin Huff, K, Sophomore
“I really don’t like them (San Marino). I think it’s going to be a good game. They lost a couple of really good players (to graduation), so I think we have a good chance against them this year.”
Sidney Luna-Long, WR, DB, QB, Junior
“It’s a big game, the biggest game of our season and one that we’re all looking forward to. We just have to play together. We’re stressing teamwork, making plays. It’s going to be a good game. San Marino has always had a good program. It’s going to take a lot to beat them, but I think we’re prepared. We’re just trying to bring back the (Crowley) Cup. I like the chemistry of our team. We’re more connected than ever. I have great friends off the field. It’s a great program.”
Jonathan Hughey, OL, Junior
“It’s going to take a lot of heart and us playing a full game to beat those guys. We can’t give up in the second half. If we play a full, four-quarter game to the best of our ability I think we’ll do pretty well. The rivalry goes back a long time. I remember in elementary school when my brother was playing high school sports, I definitely felt the rivalry. We want to beat these guys. We don’t like them, but we stay respectful. We want to win. We don’t want to go all four years (in high school) and not beat them.”
Jackson Totleben, RB, OLB, Junior
“We haven’t play a full, four-quarter game this season and the last couple of weeks we’ve put all of our points in the first half and nothing in the second half. We need to focus on our production for all four quarters.”
Jacob Wilson, OL, DL, Senior
Jacob is the largest player on the team at 6-feet-6, 350 pounds. “As a team, we’ve come so far. We don’t give up. We’re a pretty tough group of kids here. We’ve survived against tougher teams, so we hope we can beat them too. What’s it going to take to beat them? Focus. I hope we can maintain our focus like we did (in a blowout win over) against Gabrielino (earlier this season) and have a good game against San Marino.