First published in the Oct. 21 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook. By Nathan Cambridge
Two games into Rio Hondo League play, the South Pasadena High School was tied atop the standings and up next was Polytechnic School. Poly is new to the league and, judging by the results against the Tigers, the Panthers have not bitten off more than they can chew.
“We wanted to come out and beat [South Pasadena] so we can make CIF and show ourselves as a competitor in this new league,” said Poly senior co-captain Jason Mayo.
Poly dominated South Pasadena, taming the Tiger offense until the very end for a 28-8 win Friday night on Ray Solari Field in the first Rio Hondo League matchup between the schools.
“We’re a team that can compete in this league. We’ve shown ourselves,” Mayo said.
Poly (4-3 overall, 2-1 in league) held the hosts to 42 total yards and zero passing yards in the first two quarters, after which the visitors had a 21-0 advantage.
“We started off the game with penalties and mistakes and kind of got rolled over a bit, and we just never recovered,” South Pasadena coach Jeff Chi said.
After the Panthers’ first drive came up empty, Poly scored on its next three possessions. The catalyst was Mayo, who had three catches for a game-high 128 yards and two touchdowns, all coming in the second quarter.
South Pasadena (4-4, 2-1) saw its first drive end with a fumble recovered by Poly’s Derek Foker at the Tigers’ 11-yard line.
Soon after, Poly signal-caller Colin Mathews scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper.
Following a South Pasadena punt, the next Panther drive covered 91 yards, finished with an 65-yard passing touchdown from Mathews to Mayo.
“We saw they were in cover three and their safety was shading over to the right, so I knew if I went right up the seam that I’d be open,” Mayo said. “I got the pass completion, stiff-armed the safety and scored.”
The Tigers’ third drive netted minus-12 total yards before a punt. The ensuing Poly drive covered 56 yards for another Mayo touchdown. This time Mathews hit the senior on a crossing route, after which Mayo turned up the left sideline and did the rest for a 37-yard score.
During its next possession, Poly converted a third down and seven at the Tigers’ 41-yard line when Mayo rose up over two Tiger defenders for a 26-yard grab. The drive ended without a score when South Pasadena blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt by Robert Marion-Sims on the final play of the half. The senior converted all four of his PAT kicks.
A South Pasadena fumble on the second snap of the third quarter was recovered by Poly freshman Everson Mathis, but the Tigers would force a punt on the ensuing Panther possession.
Later in the third, South Pasadena’s Aiden Kinney intercepted a Mathews pass. The ensuing Tiger drive included their first pass completions of the night by quarterback Noah Aragon: a 14-yard connection to Quinn Stirling and a 22-yard hookup with Sage Wayans. The hosts drove within six yards of paydirt, but a sack by Panther Griffin Unanue on fourth down ended the threat.
Sterling finished with a game-high four grabs for 41 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs but got it back on the next play, when Matthias Olson stepped in front of the receiver and picked off an Aragon pass. The drive that followed put the nail in the coffin for the Tigers. After several rushing plays, Mathews threw a pass on play-action for a 58-yard touchdown to Nicolas Cardenas, who finished with 72 yards on two catches.
Mathews completed nine of 20 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception. The senior also carried the ball five times for 24 yards and the score.
“[Mathews] makes really good decisions,” Poly coach Chris Schmoke said. “He throws a really good football. He’s fast and he can play defense.”
Poly was led in rushing by Alex Xie with 11 carries for 60 yards. Olson had 15 carries for 47 yards and two grabs for 15 yards.
South Pasadena scored in the final minute with a 92-yard drive orchestrated by backup quarterback Jackson Freking against the Panther reserves. It was climaxed with an eight-yard rushing touchdown on fourth down by Alexander Gonzalez.
The Tigers were led in rushing by Jack Riffle, who had 45 yards on 12 carries.