The sour expression on Nathan Pineda’s face as he sat with his injured left ankle elevated on the training table during the fourth quarter of last Friday’s 41-7 away loss to Temple City captured the mood on the Tigers’ sideline during what would be their second league loss and third straight dropped contest.
Pineda became the latest South Pasadena lineman to go down to injury in the past few weeks, a development that has brought trying times to first-year head coach Jeff Chi. Chi knows that without a strong offensive line—a part of the team he identified as a strength at the beginning of the season—there is no prospect of running the ball or protecting the quarterback long enough for his receivers to get open.
“The lines (offensive and defensive) are day to day,” he said Tuesday. “The key is to control the line of scrimmage, so if our lines are ready to play, we will have better chance of winning the game.
“We have a few other minor injuries, and we are really short-handed, but we need to move forward with the guys that are practicing and ready to play on Friday,” the coach continued. “This week will give opportunities to other players to step up and contribute.”
Contributions are welcome from anywhere at this point for the Tigers, their three-game skid appearing even more troubling as a matchup with rival San Marino in two weeks looms ahead.
Tonight, the Tigers return home after two away matches to face the La Cañada Spartans, who are 0-2 in league and winless overall. In their last two games, the Spartans lost by scores of 55-0 and 61-7 to San Marino and Monrovia, respectively. The Tigers should be favored in the matchup, but have already lost to a winless Monrovia squad in their league opener, meaning La Canada will also view tonight as its best chance at a victory this year.
To return to their exciting early season form the Tigers need to get the ball to their star receivers, Danny Rios and Sydney Luna-Long. Quarterback Justin Huff has plenty of arm to deliver the ball to the senior wide outs but needs some time to drop back in the pocket unhurried and allow them to get open.
Having a couple offensive linemen back in the starting lineup should provide Huff with that necessary time. A productive passing game will hopefully drop the defense into pass coverage and allow the Tigers to utilize their strong running game, which has been bottled up recently by defenses crowding the box.
A win would give the Tigers the minimum five wins needed to qualify for the CIF playoffs before a heavily-favored San Marino squad comes to town next week.