By Ryan Nakamura
Photos by Tucker Judkins
A 31-28 victory over Santa Clarita Christian kicked off the varsity football teams new season in a hotly contested win at Canyon High School.
“It was an exciting game and we saw a lot of different parts of football from passing to running and defense,” Head Coach CB Richards said. “It was great to see the chinks in the armour that we have to fix. I’m happy to have that and it was a good team that we played here today and I think the guys [South Pas] deserve the victory.”
It was the Cardinals who made a quick 55 yard pass deep into Tiger territory which opened the gates for Santa Clarita to follow up with a touchdown, taking a 7-0 lead 4:25 into the game. From here the new offensive team ran into multiple problems converting downs on the Cardinals, with the Tigers only making it to the 29 yard line before punting their first drive.
The Tiger defense was able to stand their ground against the Cardinals passing with superior defense, including senior Max Luck swatting a pass in the 2nd down, followed by junior Jalen Ross defending a pass to force a Santa Clarita punt. Still, the Tiger offense had trouble converting downs with the Cardinal defense in play. Although the Tiger defense was on high alert, the offense was still having trouble getting adjusted.
“I think we did alright offensively and we could’ve done better but we definitely gotta step it up all around,” senior Jason Takarabe said. “We have a lot to work on but we came together as a family today.”
It wasn’t until an interception from Ross at the 48 yard line did the Tiger offense start making headway. From there, the Tigers started to slowly crawl their way into Cardinal territory with senior running back Emiliano Sornoso racking up a first down after a 7 yard catch and 8 yard run to put the Tigers at the 35 yard line. Senior Christian Carter muscled out 10 yards of his own for another first down, followed by additional runs from Ross and Carter to put the Tigers 15 yards away from the end zone before the first quarter ended. It would be junior tight end Ben Quirk to put up the Tigers’ first points of the season, catching a bullet pass from senior quarterback Michael Partida early in the second for a score of 7-7.
In return, the Cardinal offense, led by quarterback Michael Uribe, passed their way to the the two yard line with the Tiger defense struggling to cover the Santa Clarita receivers. It would be a wildcat draw which gave the Cardinals a 14-7 lead halfway through the second quarter. The Tigers responded with a multitude of pass and running plays to reach the 10 yard line, Luck capping off the Tigers’ drive with a second touchdown from pass from Partida to tie the game at 14-14. Uribe kept up the momentum for Santa Clarita, however, with a 77 yard passing frenzy to score another touchdown with 8 seconds left in the half. Ross would return the ball to the 49 yard line, but nothing came of the ensuing hail mary, and the Tigers headed into the lockers down 14-21 at the half.
Led by running backs Takarabe and Sornoso, the Tigers slowly chiseled away at the Cardinal defense from the 37 yard line, eventually reaching the the Cardinal 19 yard line and in perfect position for junior quarterback Adam Arellano to pass to Quirk for the tight end’s second touchdown of the night. South Pas kept it neck and neck with the Cardinals, 21-21.
Now adjusted to the Cardinals plan of attack, South Pas slowly grinded Santa Clarita to a halt until senior cornerback Max Garcia took a pick 67 yards to the house. Officials called the touchdown back due to a personal foul on the Tigers, but gave possession to the Tigers starting at their own 45 yard line. The Tigers kept up the momentum but fell short 20 yards from a touchdown. Junior kicker Robert Amaral would make the decisive play in the form of a 36 yard field goal to give the Tigers a 24-21 lead over SCC.
With the momentum of taking the lead for the first time in the game, South Pas held the Cardinal offense to 4th and 17, Ross forcing another incomplete pass, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs. With the Tiger offense energized, the team again looked to Sornoso and Takarabe to get them three yards from the goaline. It would be Partida to score the 6 off of a scramble to take a 31-21 lead in the game.
Desperate to score, the Cardinals counterattacked with a touchdown of their own with a heavy passing assault, reaching the endzone with 1:55 left in regulation. The Tigers recovered the ensuing onside kick and let the clock run down at the 40 yard line to finish 31-28.
“Getting this win meant so much for our season, our fans and for South Pas,” Quirk stated. “We got so close together over summer and it was just amazing to play with everyone.”
The Tigers hope to continue their newfound dominance on the field against Hoover High School at home on September 11, Friday at 7:00 p.m.
“Everyone seems that they all want to be here and its great to see that [and] it feels more than amazing winning, especially because it’s my senior year,” senior Christian Carter added.