First published in the Nov. 19 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
South Pasadena High School’s varsity football team obliterated Upland Western Christian, 49-6, in the CIF-SS Division XIII quarterfinals after the Tigers exploded to a 35-6 halftime lead.
The win lifts South Pasadena (7-5 overall record) into the semifinals for the first time since 1976, according to SPHS athletic director Anthony Chan. The top-seeded Tigers will travel to Montclair High (8-4 record) tonight, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to next weekend’s CIF championship game.
Head coach Jeff Chi credited South Pasadena’s stellar running game, led by senior Jack Riffle’s 20 carries for a team-high 148 yards and four rushing touchdowns, for the blowout victory.
“I think a huge part was our running game. We haven’t had a successful running game for the past couple games because our running back [Jack Riffle] was a little banged up,” Chi said. “He’s finally healthy and at his full capacity that he’s able to perform.”
Senior quarterback Noah Aragon was near-perfect, completing 6 of 8 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, he added 29 yards on two carries.
“Our quarterback has been a go-to guy for the full year, so he’s been pretty dependable with his arm,” Chi said. “One of his favorite receivers is Grant Huntley, who has been a huge addition since he came back from the injury he had earlier in the season, so having him on the team is a huge bonus.”
Huntley, a senior wide receiver, caught three passes for a team-high 102 yards and one touchdown.
Sophomore running back Jason Hong rushed for 70 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries. Defensively, he recorded two tackles (one solo, one assist).
Senior Alexander Gonzalez and junior Jackson Freking each carried twice for 26 and 15 yards, respectively. Freking also added one reception for 7 yards.
Junior kicker Aidan Kinney was a perfect 7 for 7 in PAT attempts.
The Tigers sturdy defense was led sophomore cornerback Luke Riffle, who intercepted two passes, while sophomore Isaiah Hyun and senior Jaden Castellon each picked off one pass. Sophomore Devin Robinson recovered one fumble.
Junior outside linebacker Quinn Stirling recorded a team-high seven solo tackles. Castellon and Robinson added six and five tackles, respectively, while freshman defensive end James Dowd had three solos.
“We don’t really have a superstar on defense; it’s just scrappy guys that are playing well together, just doing their jobs,” Chi said. “We have a very young squad, but they’re doing what we ask them to do and it’s been working good for us so far.”
Senior defensive end Sage Wayans, junior defensive tackle Dylan Feak, Hong and Hyun each added two tackles, while Luke Riffle, senior Luca Berk and Kinney each had one.
South Pasadena (7-5 regular-season record) is the last Rio Hondo League team still standing and will visit Montclair High (8-4 regular-season record) for the CIF semifinals round on Friday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m.
“I think Montclair had a very similar game like we did. They had a very dominant win against San Gabriel High School; their running game was average until that Friday night,” Chi said. “I think it’s going to be a battle on the line of scrimmage.”