Tests come in different sizes, shapes and degrees of difficulty on the football field. Last Friday presented one variety for the South Pas High varsity Tigers. This Friday comes another, of a distinctly different kind.
Last Friday the Tigers took the field against winless Bassett of La Puente for their first home game in almost a month, coming off a gritty matchup versus Alhambra. The Tigers lost that Alhambra game but still passed a test, hanging tough against a top-rated and unbeaten opponent.
Against Bassett — a team that entered the night with an 0-5 record, and having been outscored 227-66 — the Tigers needed to guard against taking an overmatched opponent for granted … needed to go out and beat a team they had every expectation of beating. They passed both those tests as well, recording an easy 41-0 romp.
South Pas improved to 4-1 on the season with the non-Rio Hondo League win.
Now comes a challenge that’s been on head coach Jeff Chi’s radar since the schedule was first announced — a home matchup against Poly of Pasadena, also owner of a 4-1 record. It will be the Tigers’ final non-league game before they host San Marino next Friday.
The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., but had to be moved up to 3 p.m. because of a shortage of officials – an issue that has troubled the Rio Hondo League the last few years.
“It’s a good test for us, to see how good we are,’’ Chi said of Poly’s Panthers. “We’re both 4-1 teams – this will be a good indicator of how we’re going to do in the league.
“They have a good running back (senior Jackson Treister) — a big, physical running back,’’ Chi added. “We’ve seen him as an underclassman, and he’s pretty impressive.’’
Chi said the Panthers also “have some role players that are very explosive,’’ but that their biggest strength is, “they are very disciplined, they get the job done.’’
“We have to be on top of our fundamentals, too, try to limit our mistakes,’’ he said.
That was a hole in the Tigers’ game early in the season, even though they were still managing to win their games despite sloppy mistakes. They fixed the sloppiness in the 35-21 loss to Alhambra – and again played a fairly clean game against Bassett, when just about everything went right against the Olympians.
Quarterback Samuel Luna-Long threw three long touchdown passes (for 41, 78 and 73 yards) and Ethan Hong rushed for two more TDs to lead the Tiger offense.
Receiver Grant Huntley made a spectacular catch on the 41-yarder, which gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and set the South Pas locomotive in motion.
“Coming off of last week’s tough game, we are looking forward to how we respond mentally and physically for this week’s game,’’ Chi had said before the Bassett game.
“I believe the team is ready to compete. Our league play is getting closer, and we need to get better at executing our plays. So Bassett will be a great test for us.”
And so it went. The Tigers competed. They executed. They won.
With 800-or-so Tiger fans cheering them on in their first home game since an Aug. 30 victory over Viewpoint, the Tigers took a 7-0 lead with about three minutes to go in the first quarter. Luna-Long connected on a 41-yard TD pass to Huntley, and Quentin Pithey followed with the point after.
The Tigers made it 14-0 about four minutes into the second quarter when Luna-Long again went to the air, this time hitting Jonathan Stride with a 78-yard TD pass and Pithey nailing the PAT.
Then, with two minutes to go in the quarter, South Pas was driving for another score, but the threat ended with a Tiger fumble. However, Bassett couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and was forced to punt – setting up an eventual one-yard touchdown run by Hong that gave South Pas a 21-0 lead at the half.
It became 34-0 when the Tigers tacked on another 13 points in the third quarter. Hong scored on a five-yard run about six minutes into the period, but the extra point missed. Then Luna-Long added another segment to his personal highlight reel with a 73-yard TD strike to Terrence Sweetman.
Brian Zepeda’s 10-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, followed by the extra point, gave the Tigers a 41-0 lead and closed the scoring.
Afterward, Chi had praise for his defense as well as his prolific offense.
“The defense played really well – they shut ’em out,’’ Chi said.
And, all around, Chi said, “We were able to make adjustments.”
Chi said all his players were close to 100 percent heading into this Friday’s Poly matchup.
“This is one of the first games where all the key players are going to be healthy,” he said.