First published in the Sept. 22 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
Polytechnic and Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep are longtime rivals on the football field, and despite both schools now being in different leagues, the rivalry continues. This season the Panthers hosted the Kares in their final nonleague game.
In last Friday’s matchup, the Kares used a smothering defensive effort to dominate Poly, leaving the host Panthers on the wrong side of a 35-6 outcome in a game played at South Pasadena High School.
“We have a tough young group and, like I told the kids, I am proud of them for competing,” first-year Pasadena Poly coach Daniel Frazer said.
Rio Hondo Prep (4-0 record) has now won the last four in the series, dating back to the final encounter when both schools were members of the Prep League.
“We always look forward to this game. We’ve played Poly over 50 times in our school’s history, so it’s a good win for us,” said Rio Hondo Prep coach Mark Carson, whose team now plays in the Gold Coast League. “I know they were down [and] had some injuries on that side of the field, but they did a great job and they hung in there.”
The loss means the Panthers will enter their second year of play in the Rio Hondo League still looking for their first win. After a bye this weekend, Poly (0-4) will host Temple City on Sept. 30.
“[Now] the season starts,” Frazer said. “This is preseason for a reason: to get better. [It’s] week one against Temple City in two weeks.”
The Panthers opened the game with the ball, but punted after absorbing two sacks, not gaining a first down and losing 15 yards. The Panther defense held and the Kares turned the ball over on downs.
Poly’s second drive featured another sack, no first down and a loss of 11 yards. Rio Hondo Prep then got on the board when Ryan McCulloch took a handoff and rumbled up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown run.
The ensuing Poly drive began with another sack of starting quarterback Henry McDonald and ended two yards back from where it began without a first down. The opening stanza ended with the visitors up 7-0 and Poly with negative 28 yards on offense.
On the first play of the second quarter, Rio Hondo Prep’s Anthony Hernandez ran for a four-yard touchdown followed by a successful PAT kick.
The next two Panther drives each netted zero yards. Sandwiched in between was another powerful touchdown run by McCulloch up the middle, this time from 19 yards out.
Poly’s sixth possession ended in a punt, but not before the hosts earned their first first down when Nathaniel Marko made a 16-yard catch over the middle.
In the final minute of the half, Poly’s Ryker Holleman picked off a pass from Rio Hondo starting quarterback Armando Carbajal Jr. This allowed the Panthers to gain enough yardage in the final 25 seconds before the break to get out of the red in total yardage.
Jad Ammar had runs of five and seven yards, and the final play of the half saw McDonald scramble for 22 yards.
Holleman made another interception on the first play of the third quarter. However, the ensuing drive was halted by an interception of McDonald by Cody Nelson.
McCulloch, who had moved from fullback to tight end, caught a 31-yard touchdown pass to covert the turnover into points. McCulloch finished with eight carries for 100 yards and two scores, all in the first half, and three catches for 82 yards and the score.
The final touchdown of the game for the visitors came with 4:49 left in the third. Alex Mustain threw a 28-yard scoring pass to Nate Curtis and the PAT boot made it 35-0, prompting a running clock for the rest of the contest due to point differential.
In the waning minutes, Poly avoided the shutout. McDonald lofted a high-arcing pass that dropped into the back left corner of the end zone and into the hands of Marko, who made a high-degree-of-difficulty catch for a touchdown.
McDonald finished 14 of 33 for 139 yards with one interception and one touchdown. The junior also had 22 yards on four runs. Nicolas Cardenas had a game-high five catches for 62 yards, including a 44-yard reception, which was the hosts’ biggest gainer of the game. Cole Mallinger had four catches for 22 yards. Marko had two grabs for 32 yards, including the score. Preston Mathis had two catches for 23 yards.
“It’s always fun to beat a rival and we appreciate [Poly] showing good effort out here tonight,” Carson said.