Poly Falls to South Pasadena in L.A. Coliseum

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(Photos by Sebastian Moore / OUTLOOK) - Senior Dillon Hayes (left) and sophomore TJ McElrath celebrate a touchdown in the endzone of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

First published in the Nov. 3 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

In football lore, it does not get much more hallowed than the grass of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It’s certainly a rare opportunity to compete on its grass, surrounded by the wealth of history permeating its walls.
But that is exactly what the players on the Polytechnic and South Pasadena High football teams got the chance to do recently.
“It’s beautiful,” Poly coach Daniel Frazer said. “This is one of the greatest stadiums ever, in the world.”
It was the second season in a row that the Panthers hosted a game at the Coliseum, and the first visit for South Pasadena.
“It’s a great opportunity, not only for the kids, but also both communities,” Poly assistant director Thomas Sale said.
After starting slow, South Pas was able to grind out a 27-7 win over the Panthers in a Rio Hondo League affair at the 99-year-old stadium.
South Pasadena, which finished tied for second place in the Rio Hondo League, relied heavily on its run game, and Jason Hong did the bulk of the duties. The junior carried the ball 23 times for 137 yards and all three of his squad’s touchdowns on offense.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hong said of playing in the Coliseum. “I’ve always wanted to play at the next level. Being here is surreal to me and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
The bulk of the offense for Poly, which finished the season fifth in league with a 1-4 record (1-8 overall), was provided by quarterback Henry McDonald. The junior was 11 of 28 for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 83 yards on 14 carries.
“We fought hard. We were definitely the underdogs coming into this game, but I think we showed a lot of heart,” McDonald said. “I think all of our guys played really hard until the end, so I couldn’t be more proud of how we played tonight, even though we didn’t come out on top.”

The Polytechnic varsity football seniors include (from left) Dillon Hayes, Nathaniel Marko, Charles Thorell, Streak Honey, Griffin Unanue, Hudson Stimmler, August Shuckhart, Dashiell Ferrante, Nicolas Cardenas and Noah Lyon-Hartley with head coach Daniel Frazer (center).

Poly’s Nicolas Cardenas intercepted Tiger quarterback Jackson Freking on the second snap of the contest, setting the scene for a scoreless first quarter. On its first drive of the second quarter, South Pasadena went 51 yards in 10 plays, all runs. It culminated with a three-yard scoring run off-tackle right by Hong. Aidan Kinney added the PAT kick for a 7-0 advantage.
The Tiger defense then forced a three and out. The offense got the ball near midfield and drove for another score. This time Hong ran the ball right and sprinted to the end zone, diving at the front pylon to reach pay dirt on a 17-yard touchdown carry with 2:10 left before the break.
Poly opened the third quarter with a 12-play drive that included a 23-yard scramble by McDonald down to the Tigers’ eight-yard line. However, the Panthers went backwards from there and ended up turning the ball over on downs.
Trailing 21-0, Poly responded on the first snap of its next possession. McDonald connected with TJ McElrath over the middle for a 67-yard touchdown.
The Panther defense then forced a three and out. The following Panther drive started at the 14-yard line and lasted 10 plays but was halted deep in the red zone when Tiger Thomas Carter recorded a sack on fourth down.
The Tigers then sealed the win with a 12-play drive that ended with Hong’s third touchdown run of the contest, this time from 12 yards out.
McElrath led the Panthers with 80 yards on three catches. Nathaniel Marko and Cole Mallinger each had three receptions, for 33 and 14 yards respectively.
More than likely, this will not be the last time the Panthers, who began play in the Rio Hondo League last season, host a league game in the Coliseum.
“If we continue to have this partnership with the Coliseum, I think that is going to be the goal, to play every league team once in this stadium,” Sale said. “We’d like to keep it a league thing. We are grateful to the Rio Hondo League for letting Poly join it, and we feel we kind of owe this to the league.”