First published in the Nov. 5 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
After South Pasadena High School’s varsity football team finished third in the Rio Hondo League with a 3-2 record (5-5 overall), the Tigers earned the No. 1 seed in CIF-SS Division 13 and will host Anaheim Magnolia High at 7:30 p.m. today.
According to SPHS athletic director Anthony Chan, this will be the Tigers’ first home playoff game since the early 1990s.
“We’re excited to host but, ultimately, we’re focusing on our game and just trying to win a ball game here,” said Jeff Chi, South Pasadena’s head coach. “The game plan is always the same for us in that offensively we just need to execute, protect the ball and limit turnovers. Defensively, our goal is to stop [Magnolia’s] main player, wide receiver [Sean Thompson]. So we are going to focus on trying to stop him and make the other guys make plays for them.”
Senior quarterback Noah Aragon has been a force for the Tigers all season. He has completed 88 of 141 passes (62%) for 1,905 yards and 10 touchdowns. On the ground, Aragon had 36 carries for 231 yards and five rushing touchdowns.
“He’s been a huge asset to our team,” Chi said. “He’s got an arm that is really impressive, and he gets the ball to our receivers in a very short time on the line.”
Senior Jack Riffle has been the team’s top rusher, carrying 139 times for 948 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns, all of which are team-highs. He has also hauled in 21 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s been our physical running back who makes big plays when we need him to,” Chi said. “He’s done a great job just keeping the running game going well so that teams have to really respect that, and that opens up our passing game as well.”
Despite only playing four games, senior Grant Huntley did well in limited action by recording 13 receptions for a team-high 254 yards with two touchdowns. He also added one carry for 4 yards.
Senior Alexander Gonzalez had a fine season on both ends of the ball. Offensively, Gonzalez logged 34 carries for 265 yards (second only to Jack Riffle) with three touchdowns. Defensively, he has recorded one sack and is tied for second-most tackles (55) with senior teammate Jaden Castellon — 10 behind the team leader, junior Quinn Stirling (65 tackles).
“[Gonzalez] has been solid just containing and putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. Very physical kid,” Chi said. “He also does double duty on offense as a fullback, and he’s had some key games. He’s been very positive for our team.”
If South Pasadena defeats Magnolia (4-5 overall record), the Tigers will play either Upland’s Western Christian or Riverside Prep in the quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 12.
Monrovia Rolls Over Tigers in Regular Season Finale
In their regular-season finale, the Tigers visited unbeaten Rio Hondo League champion Monrovia (10-0 overall, 5-0 in league) and lost 56-7 on Thursday, Oct. 28.
Junior quarterback Jackson Freking, who played the entire game, completed five of 15 passes for 68 yards and one touchdown. He also added one carry for 5 yards.
Jack Riffle, who scored South Pasadena’s only touchdown, rushed for 95 yards on 14 carries and added one reception for 13 yards. Meanwhile, junior teammate Luke Riffle added two carries for 14 yards.
Huntley was the Tigers’ best receiver that night, as he recorded a team-high 52 yards. Senior teammate Sage Wayans added one reception for 3 yards.
Sophomores Jason Hong and Giovanni Cruz with Gonzalez each recorded one carry for a combined 13 yards. Hong also added a team-high five tackles on defense.
Castellon held the line with four tackles while junior Duke Partain and Luke Riffle both recorded three tackles.