SOUTH PASADENA — In its final nonleague football game of the season, Hoover High had a chance to go into a bye week leading into Pacific League play with a winning record.
Standing in its way was South Pasadena, which the Tornadoes beat in the final minutes last season. But this year, the Tigers had home field advantage on their side.
Hoover stayed with the Tigers through halftime, but the relentless running attack of South Pasadena took its toll and the Tornadoes fell, 21-7, in a game played in the bright sunshine of Friday afternoon in order to finish before the beginning of Yom Kippur at sunset.
“Our defensive scheme was good,” Hoover first-year Coach Matt Andersen said. “[We] just [need to] contain players. It’s simple to me, but obviously we didn’t do it today. They busted a lot of those sweeps on us. We practiced against that offense all week, so I don’t know why it gave us so many problems.”
Hoover (1-2) held the Tigers in check in the first quarter, benefiting from two South Pasadena turnovers. The first ended the opening drive of the contest when the Tigers quarterback and running back botched a handoff and Tornado Aram Grigoryan pounced on the ball.
Hoover was held without a first down on its first two possessions. The second ended with a punt, but the ball went right back to the Tornadoes when the Tigers return man fumbled while trying to battle for extra yards. Hoover recovered the ball 29 yards from the end zone and on the second play of the second quarter, scored the first points of the game on a Kenneth Traquena seven-yard touchdown run between the tackles. Andres Perez then booted home the extra point and Hoover led, 7-0, with 11:50 left before halftime.
“We tried hard,” said Traquena, who led Hoover with 61 yards on 14 carries. “Some of our players didn’t execute. We’re going to get at it on this bye week and come back strong.”
However, on the ensuing possession, South Pasadena (1-1) tied the game, scoring on an 80-yard drive while repeatedly gouging the Hoover defense for big runs. The Tigers finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run by Heven Gomez, who also had a 22-yard rush during the drive. Gomez then kicked the PAT through the uprights and the home team knotted the second at 7.
In the final minute of the first half, South Pasadena was on the doorstep of taking the lead. The Tigers had third down and six yards to go at the 8-yard line with 19 seconds remaining. But Perez knocked down Tiger quarterback Michael Partide’s pass in the end zone, forcing a field-goal attempt. Gomez then missed the 25-yard try and the teams went into the break tied, 7-7.
Hoover forced another turnover on the Tigers’ first possession of the second half when Perez stripped South Pasadena’s Kurtis Ip of the ball five yards from taking the lead after a long reception. Hoover’s Sal Gomez covered the ball and score remained deadlocked.
South Pasadena remained committed to the ground game and took its first lead of the game on a 42-yard touchdown run up the middle by Matthew Ayala with 3:14 to go in the third.
Hoover quarterback Se Jun Kim did not complete a pass in the first half, going zero for seven with several of the passes dropped. However, he did get got going after the break.
In the second half the senior went eight for 15 passes for 74 yards. That included a 23-yard connection with Alvin Kim, leaving the Tornadoes three yards from potentially tying the score early in the final quarter. Kim led all Hoover receivers with five catches for 40 yards. However, Hoover could not cover those final three yards and four plays later gave the ball back to the Tigers when Se Jun was sacked on fourth down.
“We just need to execute. We’re not executing,” Andersen said. “We had them schemed exactly. We played against that defense all week. They came out exactly as we expected and we didn’t execute. You can’t win ballgames unless you execute.”
Hoover did not come close to scoring again and when Gomez — who finished with a game-high 133 yards on 16 carries — scored from six yards out with 1:02 left, any chance of a miraculous comeback like last season faded away.
The Tornadoes will now have a bye week to get healthy and hone their execution before opening Pacific League play hosting Muir at Moyse Field.
“The bye week couldn’t come at a better time,” Andersen said. “We got to get some guys healthy. We’ve got three or four starters who were not playing due to injury. So we’ve got to get those guys healthy. We’re just thin right now.”