This might be the best deal in town, but you have to be a member of the South Pasadena High School varsity football team to take advantage it.
C.B. Richards, making good on a promise, arrived at practice last Saturday morning with enough breakfast burritos to feed his 40-man roster and coaches, and was welcomed with smiles, laughter and high spirits that have marked the program since his arrival as head coach early in 2015.
Richards has instilled a new energy and excitement around his players that is quickly gaining momentum under his watch. You can see it, as members of his squad go the extra mile during practices and games, relish his every word during post-game remarks, have bought in – hook, line and sinker – to his system, energized daily to be a part of what appears to be a new day, with plenty of challenges thrown their way.
That’s why when the secondyear coach waved a carrot in their face, so to speak, by rewarding them with breakfast burritos if they avoided an illegal procedure penalty, or jumping off-sides for an entire game, they were all in.
That’s a deal his club couldn’t pass up, and cashed in last Friday night as South Pas avoided the infraction, and celebrated by eating burritos – breakfast style – prior to watching a video of the Tigers’ 35-20 non-league victory over host Rosemead in the season opener for both teams.
Going 48 minutes without jumping over the line of scrimmage prior to the snap of the ball may not sound like a difficult assignment, but Richards knows it can often make the difference in a contest when every yard counts. One false start can slow a team’s momentum, kill a drive or worse, mean the difference between winning and losing.
That’s why he was more than happy to fork over the dough for a king-sized morning meal for his team. “It’s a little positive reinforcement by me,” explained Richards, getting his troops ready to hit the road again, this time against Santa Clarita Christian (0-1) in a rare Saturday night encounter. “When they don’t go off sides, the deal is I buy them breakfast burritos. It’s just a little challenge I want to keep going throughout the season.”
A year ago, one of the troubling areas was the Tigers’ inability to not regularly jumping off-sides. “It killed us, so we wanted to do something about the problem this year,” said Richards. “Being disciplined, not making stupid mistakes is going to be huge for us this year. We’re coming together at the right time.”
In time to pull in a victory many questioned they wouldn’t get against at team that appeared to be bigger, stronger and faster on game tape.
South Pasadena liked its chances against Rosemead, however, holding a 28-8 lead at the half, before the Panthers cut into the 20-point advantage in the final two quarters, closing it to 28-20 with 9:40 to go in the fourth period. The Tigers finally took control with a solid 70-yard drive in the final nine minutes.
Holding onto an 8-point lead, South Pasadena, starting from its own 30, answered by marching down the field as running backs Jalen Ross and Fernando Sornoso, pushed the ball inside the Panthers’ 30 behind the Tigers’ solid offensive line comprised of center Coby Pineda, guards Johnny Hughey, and Josh Hwang and tackles Benny Martinez, Jacob Wilson and Isaac Casarez, the latter two sharing the role. Tight end Ben Quirk, whom the Tigers count on to make the tough catches down field, also helped open up the running lanes.
Finding a hole around the right side, Ross raced 27 yards down the sideline for the final score of the night, putting the Tigers comfortably in front 35- 20 with 3:28 left in the game.
During the final drive, Richards called a time out, telling his team, “Hey, you guys have been out here all summer, in the weight room, long hours on the practice field, and now is where it all kicks in.’ The boys responded in a big way. We found out what we are made of, pounding the ball, working hard out there, and finally scoring on Jalen’s big run.”
Ross spearheaded South Pasadena’s 20-point first half advantage, going 20 yards for the Tigers’ initial score with 5:53 left to go in the first quarter, finishing off a 74-yard drive in seven plays. He also helped the cause with a 38-yard run during the drive.
With less than a minute left in the first half, South Pas was back in the end zone, this time Jonathan Calderon hauling in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Adam Arellano to make it 14-0.
The Panthers looked like they were going to make a game of it when they went 55 yards in five plays as Isiah Ah-Hing found Darien Camacho on a 21- yard scoring pass to close it, 14- 8 with just under 10 minutes to go in the second quarter.
After the ensuing kick off, the Tigers were back at it, however, this time in quick fashion as it took them only five plays to go 65-yards, which featured a key 13-yard catch by Quirk on a third and seven play, setting up Gavin Chi’s 44-yard gallop untouched up the middle for a TD.
Playing surprisingly well for the first game of the season against a traditionally strong San Gabriel Valley team, the Tigers, now coasting at 21-8, wasted little time after the Panthers went three and out. Taking over at their own 47, South Pas continued to get big production out of Ross and others, and rolled down the field, capping off the drive with a 13- yard pass to Matt Walker, giving the Tigers a 28-8 lead with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter.
Rosemead scored its second touchdown with 5:06 left to go in the third quarter on a 4-yard scoring run by Carlos Alvarez, making it 28-14, and crept close, 28-20, when Darien Camacho caught a 1-yard touchdown pass.
South Pas then went to work, showing plenty of grit and determination by methodically moving the ball down field, setting a second touchdown by Ross, who finished wiht 82 yards on 20 carries, on the night. Following the score, Justin Huff, another solid weapon, booted his fifth straight extra point of the game.
The Tigers faced plenty of obstacles outside of the white lines as the scoreboard was inoperative, there was no American flag for the singing of the National Anthem and players were without a locker room. Despite the shortcomings, Richards came away impressed with his team’s performance.
“I’m proud of the kids the way we executed on offense early, to be challenged in the second half, to feel the gut-check, then push the pedal to the metal and give ourselves a two touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter,” said Richards. “It was a good start to the season. Now we just have to keep it going against Santa Clarita Christian.”