First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena High School varsity football team dropped its home opener, a 33-14 loss to visiting Boron of the High Desert Friday night.
Tigers head coach Jeff Chi emphasized his team’s mental mistakes early on this season and knows there is still plenty of time to improve mentally and physically moving forward.
“It’s a process and we have to keep working toward it,” Chi said. “Our ultimate goal is to get better each week and get ready for league, so we’re going to use this time to gear up for that. Even if we go 0-5 in [non-league] but do well in league, we’ll be pleased with the season there.”
The Tigers (0-2 record) trailed 15-0 at the end of the first quarter and the deficit quickly grew after a Mykel McClenden nine-yard rushing score opened the second quarter to increase the Bobcats’ (1-1 record) lead to 21-0.
Tigers senior quarterback Noah Aragon found his stride after a quiet first quarter and got South Pas on the scoreboard with a 45-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jack Riffle late in the second quarter. The extra point by junior placekicker Aidan Kinney cut the deficit to 21-7 entering halftime.
On the Bobcats’ opening drive of the third quarter, momentum shifted in favor of the Tigers when Kinney, who also plays cornerback, intercepted a Braeden Wolfe pass attempt, setting up Aragon and the Tigers’ offense to start their first drive of the second half near midfield.
With a combination of solid passing and strong rushing, the Tigers marched down the field and capped off the drive with Aragon’s eight-yard pass to Riffle for their second connection of night, cutting the Boron lead to seven with 11 minutes left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded the ball back and forth the rest of the quarter without any scoring up until the final minute of third. Boron’s Demonti Hill picked up a fumble by South Pas and returned it 35 yards for the scoop and score to push the lead to 27-14 late in the third quarter.
The fumble seemed to take away any momentum the Tigers had. Boron would ice the game with about four minutes left on a Wolfe 18-yard touchdown pass to Hill to push the lead, and eventual final score, to 33-14.
The rushing attack of Boron, and more specifically McClenden and freshman Isiah Morgan, was the difference in the game as South Pas could not find any way to stop the unique attack and style of the Bobcats’ offense.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do and their game plan coming in,” Chi said. “It’s about executing the plays on every down and not taking anything for granted. One guy goes inside to block and their backs bounce to the outside, so we have to be more disciplined and make sure we do our job.”
Aragon finished the night completing 22 of 28 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to 33 rushing yards. Riffle also helped the Tigers’ offense with 89 all-purpose yards, two scores and shared the team lead in catches (seven) with junior wide receiver Richard Conti, who contributed 38 receiving yards of his own.
Junior wideout (and backup quarterback) Jackson Freking led the team with 67 receiving yards on four catches and junior wide receiver Quinn Stirling added four catches for 18 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Alex Gonzalez led South Pas with 11 total tackles (four solo and one for a loss). Stirling contributed with 10 total tackles (two solo). Kinney had the lone interception for the Tigers’ defense and contributed five total tackles, in addition to two extra-point attempts made on special teams.
From an injury perspective, senior captain Grant Huntley was seen on the sidelines without his shoulder pads in the first half. After discussion with the trainers and coaching staff at SPHS, Huntley will be out for approximately four weeks with a clavicle fracture.
“That’s a big loss for our team,” Chi said. “He’s a vital part of our offense and will be greatly missed. But this just means another one of our athletes gets the opportunity to step up and play a big role. That’s part of football — giving kids opportunities to fill a spot and get their moment to shine.”
Before his injury, Huntley contributed one carry for four yards. He had led all receivers with six catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in the first game of the season the previous week against Lincoln High School of Los Angeles.
Photos by Eric Danielson / The Review