Photos by Oscar Walsh
The Tigers pulled away from the Mountain View Vikings in the second half to win 35-14 in their first game of the year. Junior Ivan Estrada led the South Pas offense with four total touchdowns and 263 total yards in his varsity debut. With senior starting quarterback Justin Huff out of the game with an injury, junior Samuel Luna-Long stepped up in his place and delivered, with 3 passing touchdowns, one rushing score, and one interception.
Senior defensive tackle Jacob Barnes set up the Tigers in positive field position with a blocked punt in the first quarter. Junior Quentin Pithey carried the ball for a crucial five yard gain on 4th and two to keep the drive alive. A couple plays later, Luna-Long tossed the ball outside the numbers to Estrada on a screen pass. Estrada followed his blocks and sprinted past the Viking D to give the Tigers their first score of the season with a 22 yard touchdown reception.
On the next drive, the SPHS was unable to retain their seven point lead, allowing the Mountain View offense to march down the field for a quick touchdown. Sloppy tackling and open lanes led to a 41 touchdown run from the opposing Viking running back. Estrada responded quickly, taking the ensuing kickoff 88 yards past the opposing team for his second touchdown of the game. The speedy wideout electrified the sizeable crowd at Roy Solari Stadium, flying past the defense into the south endzone.
After allowing the Vikings to run the ball all the way to the Tiger ten yard line, the defense came up with a timely defensive stand on fourth down to retain their touchdown lead in the second quarter. Nevertheless, South Pas gave the ball right back to Mountain View after Estrada dropped a screen pass from Luna-Long. With Estrada not realizing the dropped backwards pass was a live ball, the opposing defense was quick to pounce on the loose ball and retake possession. The Vikings capitalized on the golden opportunity and punched the ball in with a three yard touchdown run outside the right tackle, evening the score at 14. South Pas drove deep into Viking territory, but was unable to finish off the drive with points. Luna-Long’s pass intended for Estrada was left short, allowing a Mountain View defender to easily pick it off. The Vikings, content to go into the half with a tie, took a knee to run out the clock in the first half.
The Tigers came out of the locker room in the second half and asserted their dominance on both sides of the ball. Second-year head coach Jeff Chi and his staff made adjustments on defense to counter the Mountain View running game which had their way in the first half.
“We scouted [Mountain View] last week, and we thought we could match up front,” Chi said. “At first we couldn’t stop them, so we put in an extra lineman to plug up the gaps. I think that helped a lot; The staff did a great job preparing them this week.”
The halftime adjustments were evident, with the South Pas defense pitching a shutout in the second half. Senior Logan Svihovec-McCarty led the Tiger linebacking corps, getting off of blockers and bringing down Viking ball-carriers. The 5’3’’ Barnes wreaked havoc up front, occupying blocks and totaling a career-high eight tackles.
The quarterback to receiver junior duo of Luna-Long and Estrada connected twice more in the second half for two long scores. In the 3rd quarter, Luna-Long dropped a perfect pass in the hands of Estrada who was streaking down the right sideline. The 65 yard score gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead. Later in the 4th, the South Pas coaching staff dialed up another deep ball for Estrada. Luna-Long took a three step drop-back and delivered a dime to estrada in the left corner of the north endzone. Estrada created separation from his defender in the endzone, and showcased his impressive footwork to keep his feet inbounds on the catch.
“Honestly, I surprised myself with my performance today,” Estrada said. “I was nervous today for my first game on varsity. After my first half drop, I was able to keep a short term memory.”
Following another stop from the Tiger defense, the South Pas offense turned to their running game to put the game out of reach. Physical running from Barnes and senior Ruben Echeverria allowed the Tigers to move the chains and chew up clock. 6’4’’ senior Jove Yates, and the Tiger offensive line opened up room for the tailbacks to run through, especially outside the left tackle. Luna-Long capped off the drive, plowing over a Viking defender into the endzone for a 3 yard score on the quarterback keeper. The Tiger defense preserved the 35-14, batting down a deep pass as time expired to secure the team’s first victory of the year.
The Tigers will look to carry the positive momentum into next Friday when they’ll travel to El Monte to face the El Monte Lions. Similar to South Pas, the Lions won big by a score of 61-30 over Baldwin Park this week.