The South Pasadena High School varsity football team secured a share of the Rio Hondo League title, the first league crown since 1976 with a 51-28 victory over visiting Pasadena Polytechnic in the two teams’ regular-season finale on Oct. 27.
“I’d just like to thank the kids for working so hard, learning from their mistakes and believing in our system,” Tigers coach Jeff Chi said. “They accomplished something remarkable by winning that game to share the title. A league title hasn’t been [won] in the last 47 years, so I think they recognize how big of an accomplishment they were a part of.”
Senior Jason Hong rushed for a team-best 272 yards with four touchdowns on 15 carries. The standout running back is currently ranked No. 3 among all California high school touchdown scorers with 37, just five behind No. 1 Hunter Babb of Caruthers with 42, according to MaxPreps.
“Jason, with his ability to run and be elusive, he’s turning 5-yard gains into 10, 15, 20-yard gains,” Chi said. “Getting those first downs really does help us be creative in our offensive calls. All the credit goes to the line and the running back for creating those opportunities for our offense.”
Senior Devin Robinson rushed for 33 yards on four carries and caught two passes for 27 yards with a touchdown, senior Gio Cruz rushed for 16 yards and a touchdown on two carries, and senior Whitman Brida recorded three tackles, a sack and recovered a fumble for a touchdown.
Junior Zachary Lee completed 2 of 3 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown, senior Liam Ohannesian completed three passes for 25 yards, and senior Sawyer Fox went 6-for-7 in PAT attempts and scored a 37-yard field goal.
“Sawyer is quietly doing his job and he is a very capable young man,” Chi said. “He gets the ball in the end zone which makes it easier because now the other team has to drive 80 yards for touchdowns. He does a tremendous job putting us in advantageous spots for our defense.”
Junior David Eisenberg had two carries for 24 yards and an interception on defense, while senior Elijah Garcia made two receptions for 18 yards.
Junior David Ortega racked up 15 tackles, junior James Dowd finished with 10 tackles and a single-game career-best five sacks, and senior Carlo Williams chipped in seven tackles.
“Those three guys are pretty amazing individuals,” Chi said. “James Dowd with his stature playing D-end, it’s very difficult for people to run to his side and also to pass on his side. David is such a physical and intimidating linebacker and I think that puts a little bit of fear into teams. And then as for Carlo, he is a student of the game. He knows what the opponents are going to do before the snap of the ball.”
Senior Isaiah Hyun and junior Jordan Rodgers each registered four tackles, senior Mitchell Westlake produced three tackles and 0.5 sacks, and seniors Logan Ayala and Luke Riffle each contributed three tackles. Sophomore Tatem Mendoza notched two tackles, senior Harrison Farley had one tackle and an interception, and junior Alessandro Jemai, junior Sebastian Martinez, sophomore Trey Freking, sophomore Lucas Cornforth and sophomore Diego Loera each added one tackle.
The Tigers (9-1 overall, 4-1 in league) finished the regular season on a four-game win streak and opened the CIF Southern Section Division IX playoffs at Los Osos High in Rancho Cucamonga (6-4) on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
“I think [Los Osos’] makeup is very similar to what we faced in San Marino,” Chi said. “We learned a lot from the San Marino game so hopefully we can take that into Los Osos and get a win out of it.”
If victorious, SPHS would advance to the quarterfinals and meet either Dominguez High of Compton (6-5) or Kaiser High of Fontana (7-3) on Nov. 10.
First published in the November 3 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.