By Austin Green
With roughly five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of an unprecedented spring edition of the Turkey Tussle, Pasadena High School head football coach DeJuan Shamburger gathered his team on its sideline at the Rose Bowl. With the game’s result all but assured and things predictably getting chippy between the Bulldogs and archrival Muir Mustangs, Shamburger urged calm among his players by reminding them what they were about to accomplish.
“The (Victory) Bell is coming back to the eastside,” Shamburger said, “so relax.”
As Shamburger repeated his message, it had the desired effect — sort of. Bulldogs players started repeating the phrase to each other and cheering in triumph. The socially distanced Pasadena fans on the other side of the field saw the energy on the sideline and let out a loud roar. By the time the clock hit double-zeroes, Pasadena had concluded a storybook season with a 33-6 drubbing of its intracity rival at the Rose Bowl.
Though the Bulldogs finished with the best Pacific League record at 5-0, there will be no official league championship title due to the abbreviated spring schedule. Even the Victory Bell itself was nowhere to be seen, as officials kept the rivalry trophy — traditionally rung in the end zone by the victor after every game — tucked away from this matchup due to social distancing protocols. Still, the bell will return to east Pasadena for the first time since 2015, a fitting end to the best season in recent memory for Shamburger’s program.
“I’m glad we got this done for the kids,” Shamburger said. “I thank my staff; my staff did a hell of a job, man. The kids came out fired up, it was a great thing.”
As he has all spring, quarterback Dante Coronel came through for the Bulldogs when they needed him. In the second quarter, his 22-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Serrato extended Pasadena’s lead to 13 and marked the first scoring drive for either offense.
The Bulldogs were still holding onto a two-touchdown lead midway through the fourth until Coronel’s 30-yard strike to Cameron Mitchell effectively put the game on ice.
Cornel later hit Mekhi Fox on a 25-yard score after Pasadena got the ball back deep in Muir territory toward the end of the game. The Bulldogs’ breakout star finished with 14 completions on 27 attempts for 274 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“[Coronel’s] a changed kid,” Shamburger said. “He came through in the clutch; he’s been working on his craft. He did a great job.”
Muir started the trash talk early, as members of the Mustangs laughed and jeered at Pasadena players during warmups. Pasadena instead chose to let their play do the talking, as Jamir Allen returned the opening kickoff 80 yards to the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a quick 6-0 lead.
“That was big to open up the game. I’m glad [Muir deferred the kickoff] because I said I wanted to defer it [if we won the coin toss],” Shamburger said afterward.
The Mustangs had chances throughout the evening, but largely failed to convert against an aggressive Pasadena defense. Muir had three drives early in the game that went deep into Bulldogs’ territory, including one that started after Allen Bennett intercepted a Coronel pass at Pasadena’s 30-yard line. However, Pasadena got fourth-down stops each time.
“We gotta grow, get in the weight room and make plays… We had our guys wide open; we were just missing on open throws,” Muir head coach Zaire Calvin said.
When the Bulldogs finally got a turnover of their own, recovering a fumble on Muir’s side of the field in the second quarter, they immediately capitalized, as running back Daylon Beasley ran for an 18-yard touchdown to give Pasadena a 20-0 lead.
Muir finally responded on the opening drive of the third quarter, as quarterback Jack Clougherty led the Mustangs 78 yards on five plays, culminating in a six-yard touchdown pass to Baylin Brooks.
But the Mustangs could not keep up the offensive momentum. Muir’s defense held Pasadena scoreless in the third quarter as several Bulldogs players dealt with cramps, most notably Beasley. But the Bulldogs’ two-way star returned to his defensive role as a cornerback and immediately secured a momentum-shifting interception of Clougherty at the end of the third.
“That play, man, he sealed the deal,” Shamburger said.
Calvin used three quarterbacks, adding Mahki Clark to his usual rotation of Clougherty and EJ Wallace in order to get each of his seniors some snaps under center in their final high school game. Clougherty completed 13 of 28 passes for 188 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Clark went 0 for 3 with one interception and Wallace went 4 for 11 for 33 yards and a pick.
“We’re rotating quarterbacks for senior reps instead of playing a quarterback just to get through [the whole game], and I think that hurt us more than anything,” Calvin said.
Running back Tyrikk Lawson had 26 yards on 11 carries for the Mustangs, who finished the season with a 2-1 Pacific League record (2-3 overall).
Pasadena’s running back tandem of Beasley and Ahmad Jolley accounted for over 100 yards on the ground. Beasley had 60 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Jolley had 44 yards on 11 attempts. Jolley also won the inaugural Rose Bowl Institute Sportsmanship Award, which was presented in a postgame ceremony on the field by Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo.