Written by: Solana Singer
Photo by: Samantha Shiroishi
South Pasadena football suffered a devastating loss to the Los Osos Grizzlies at an away game on Friday, Nov. 3 drawing their season to a close.
“Coming off of this loss today, it’s a heartbreaker,” Head Coach Jeff Chi said. “But when you look at the overall season, I think we had a very successful year, especially bringing in the league title for the first time in like 47 years. This group of young men…it’s a special group that we’re going to remember for a long time.”
The Tigers kicked off to the Grizzlies. Los Osos drove toward South Pasadena’s end zone with successive runs of around 15 yards. Senior cornerback Isaiah Hyun made an excellent tackle a minute in, followed by another by junior cornerback David Eisenberg. After two incomplete passes forced by senior cornerback Luke Riffle and senior defensive end Sawyer Fox, the Grizzlies rushed a touchdown of 10 yards. Their extra point put a total of seven points on the board.
Eisenberg received the following kickoff with a long return, carrying the ball to Los Osos’ 49-yard line. Play went on, but the Tigers gained little yardage, and possession was turned over to the Grizzlies on downs. Los Osos made several runs, advancing them down the field. Eisenberg made a fantastic tackle, dragging down a Grizzly player rushing straight for the Tigers’ end zone. So close to the end zone, the Grizzlies scored a two-yard rushing touchdown on the next down. A two-point conversion brought their score up to 15 to the Tigers’ 0.
The ball was returned to South Pasadena’s offense. With Eisenberg and senior running back Jason Hong making consecutive short runs, the Tigers slowly neared the end zone. A long pass between junior quarterback Zachary Lee and junior tight end James Dowd drove SPHS further down the field. With 12 seconds left in the quarter, senior running back Gio Cruz rushed the 26 remaining yards for the Tigers’ first touchdown of the game. An unsuccessful extra-point kick left the total tally at 6-15.
The second quarter began as Eisenberg and Hyun continued to dominate the Tigers’ defensive line. With eight minutes left, senior defensive end Whitman Brida hindered Grizzly progress with a polished sack. Senior cornerback Luke Riffle took after Brida’s example, making several helpful tackles. Five minutes into the quarter, having successfully prevented Los Osos from reaching their end zone, South Pasadena took over possession on downs.
A series of clean runs by Hong pushed SPHS forward. Leaping over a Grizzly player, Hong carried the Tigers 12 yards away from the end zone. With two minutes left, Hong dodged Los Osos defense to score a rushing touchdown, followed by Fox’s extra point to bring the score up to 13-15.
South Pasadena kicked off to Los Osos. Soon afterward, the Tigers regained possession from a caught punt, returned by Eisenberg for a carry of a few yards. With thirty seconds left, Hong made a 15-yard run, allowing SPHS to make a rapid approach to Los Osos’ end zone. From 34 yards away, Lee threw the ball to Dowd, who made the catch in the end zone for a passing touchdown. After Fox’s extra point, South Pasadena pulled a lead of 20-15 by halftime.
The second half began with the Grizzlies’ kickoff to the Tigers. After several uneventful downs, Fox faked out Los Osos’ defense with a false punt, completing a 40-yard run with eight minutes left. Bouncing back from a Grizzly tackle for loss, both Fox and senior running back Devin Robinson executed lengthy runs. Hong, receiving a handoff from Lee, pushed his way toward the end zone. With four minutes left, Fox caught a pass from Lee and drove the ball almost all the remaining distance. On the next down, Hong pranced into the end zone for a one-yard rushing touchdown. Fox scored the extra point, inflating the score to 27-15.
Los Osos started the final quarter with the ball. They quickly gained ground, creeping up on South Pasadena’s end zone. With eight minutes left, Brida slammed a Grizzly player approaching a score to the ground to defend the Tigers’ lead. Despite this, Los Osos pulled off a seven-yard passing touchdown on the subsequent down. After their extra point, the scoreboard glowed 27-22. With eight minutes left, the crowd knew it was going to be a nail-biter.
Senior wide receiver Elijah Garcia returned the Grizzlies’ kickoff. Receiving a lengthy pass from Lee, Hong had no time to gain yardage for the team before crashing into a Los Osos defender. Cruz made a good tackle, then followed it up with a long run, bringing the ball into Grizzly territory. After a carry by Hong pushed offense to the Grizzlies’ 27-yard line, the Tigers ran out of downs, and the ball was turned over to the Grizzlies. Riffle forced a tackle; shortly after, Hyun knocked a Los Osos pass out of the air for an incomplete. Notwithstanding South Pasadena’s valiant defensive attempts, after various advances, Los Osos rushed a two-yard touchdown with two minutes left. After their successful two-point conversion, the game’s tally of 27-30 leaned confidently in the Grizzlies’ favor, and the Tigers began to prepare for defeat.
South Pasadena received the kickoff at their own 15-yard line. It was crunch time for the Tigers, and Hong took charge, making a clean carry to advance the team. A minute later, senior quarterback Liam Ohannesian passed to Hong, furthering the Tigers’ position. With 40 seconds left, Ohannesian’s next throw, this time to Garcia, saw the team with a long distance to cover before the opposing end zone. SPHS continued offensive attempts in vain; once the timer read 15 seconds left, the two teams ran the clock until Los Osos officially won.
“The season went great,” Cruz said. “We all played as a unit. Our defense went out, our offense went out…It’s been amazing. [Playing football for SPHS is] all I ever wanted, to be honest. Ever since I was a little kid, I literally dreamed of playing as a South Pasadena Tiger. And it’s awful having to end here. I wanted to win as a senior, but I know next year our juniors, our sophomores are going to go out and win. That’s all that matters is the future.”
South Pasadena ended the season with a highly impressive win record, despite their crushing loss on Friday. Out of the 11 games they played, they only lost a total of two — in addition, their previous game against Pasadena Polytechnic earned SPHS its first football league championship in over four decades, with the team finishing second in the Rio Hondo League.
“[Playing football for SPHS has been] one of the greatest experiences I’ve had,” Hong said. “It didn’t only make me a better player, but it [gave] me brothers that I’m going to have for life…I’m proud to be on this team and proud to play for this team.”
The Tigers will be back for another season next year, and with their current lineup of juniors taking the reins, it is safe to say that it will be an exciting one.