By Nick Michael
Photos by Matt Scholtz
The South Pasadena football team fell victim to a strong opponent and costly turnovers on Friday, September 9, losing to the Bonita Bearcats by a score of 49-28 in their first home game.
The Tigers were the underdogs coming into the game, as Bonita stood a full four divisions ahead of them in Division 6. Despite this, South Pas started off the better team. After an impressive defensive stop and a short punt, the Tigers were given great field position for their first drive. Senior quarterback Adam Arellano made a couple nice completions, including a two-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Ben Quirk on fourth and goal. The extra point gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
South Pas looked good defensively again on Bonita’s second drive, forcing another punt. However, the Bearcats covered the punt well, pinning the Tigers to their own two yard line to start the drive. The offense struggled to get a first down, and South Pasadena was forced to punt deep in their own territory. On the ensuing play, the Bonita punt returner weaved through the Tiger defense, supported by good blocking, and found the end zone to tie the score at 7-7.
South Pasadena got the ball back at its own 20 after a touchback, but quickly gave it away after an awkward handoff led to a fumble, which the Bearcats recovered. Bonita found itself in great field position, and promptly ran the ball in for another touchdown. The Tigers, now down by a possession, seemed unphased. They picked up two quick first downs and made their way to about midfield. But the Tigers again were unable to hold on to the ball, fumbling for the second time and failing to recover it. Bonita got the ball at its own 45, and picked up a first down right at the end of the first quarter. On the very first play of the second quarter the Bearcat quarterback connected with a wide-open receiver on a 28-yard touchdown pass, giving Bonita a 21-7 lead.
On their next drive, the Tigers were able to move the ball down the field effectively, thanks largely to a 23-yard run from senior Thomas Huff. South Pasadena advanced all the way to Bonita’s 32, but was stopped there and went three and out. Bearcats took over at their own 18, but quickly gained a few first downs. The Tiger defense, despite its best efforts, couldn’t stop Bonita from marching down the field and scoring its fourth touchdown, taking a 28-7 lead.
With just over five minutes left in the first half, South Pasadena needed a touchdown. Huff rose to the occasion again, picking apart the Bearcat defense and pulling off 14 and 33-yard runs. The Tigers soon faced a fourth down at the Bonita 17. They fed the hot hand, handing the ball off to Huff, who broke free and hustled into the end zone. That vital touchdown cut Bonita’s lead down to 14 going into the half.
The second half started off slow, with both teams punting on their first possessions. But on their second possession, the Tigers lost another fumble deep in their own territory. Bonita took over in the red zone, and scored after two plays. South Pasadena, down again by three touchdowns, began the next drive at their own 20. Junior Jackson Totleben busted out an 18 yard run, and the Tigers converted a huge first down on a 12-yard pass from Arellano to junior Sidney Luna. Now at the Bearcat 33 yard line, the Tigers handed the ball off to Totleben, who found a hole in Bonita’s defense and ran the ball in for a touchdown. For the remainder of the third quarter, neither team could find the end zone, and the score remained 35-21.
South Pasadena’s defense stepped up at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with a sack from Quirk causing a Bonita three and out. The Tigers took over at their own 30. After a quick first down, Arellano dumped a short pass to senior Jaylen Ross, who used his speed to break past the Bearcat defense for an incredible 47-yard touchdown. The score now stood at 35-28, the smallest Bonita lead since the first quarter. But on the following drive, the Tigers couldn’t stop the Bearcats from converting on three difficult third downs. Bonita slowly drove the ball down the field, capping off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
With four minutes left, South Pasadena faced a 42-28 deficit. The Tigers picked up a first down, but couldn’t maintain an offensive rhythm, and turned the ball over on downs. Bonita received the ball in Tiger territory, and scored again on a 31-yard touchdown pass. The game winded down after this last score, and Bonita came away with the 49-28 victory.
Although the Tigers ended up losing, it was still a good performance, especially considering their opponent. Had they not conceded 21 points off of turnovers, it would have been a completely different game. The loss drops their preseason record to 2-1. The team faces a bye next week, but on the following Friday, September 23, South Pas will face Alhambra in its final home preseason game.