Thirty-seconds made all the difference in a blowout homecoming win for the South Pasadena High football team against La Cañada on Friday.
Back-to-back botched plays in the first half by the Spartans gave the Tigers all they needed to celebrate a 40-10 Rio Hondo League win at home.
As the homecoming crowd raged with South Pasadena at game’s end, multiple Spartans seniors wept on the field with the possibility looming that their playing careers were over.
“We played some of our best football and couldn’t be stopped for 22 minutes,” La Cañada coach Jason Sarceda said. “Once we stumbled we were never able to recover and it cost us the game and possibly the season.”
Brandon Reese led La Cañada, going 12-of-16 passing for 111 yards.
Running back Ivan Estrada led South Pasadena with three touchdowns, while Ethan Hong added two scores and 146 rushing yards.
“[South Pasadena] hit us hard and made big plays to take over the game,” Sarceda said. “Once they got it going, it was tough to stop.”
Reese had it going early on in the first half, completing 12 of 16 passes for 111 yards. La Cañada’s offense struggled to get in the red zone, but quickly picked up momentum through its strong defensive play.
The Spartans’ defense forced two turnovers on downs, leading to a 25-yard field goal and a one-yard quarterback keep to take a 10-0 lead with 1:30 left in the first half.
Those 90 seconds proved to be difficult for La Cañada to build on. An interception thrown by Reese and a botched kickoff return by the Spartans gave up two touchdowns to Ivan Estrada in a span of 30 seconds to end the half down, 13-10.
“Players were out of position and we couldn’t recover,” Sarceda said. “We lost all the momentum we established at the start of the game.”
Things fell apart for the Spartans in the third quarter. South Pasadena carried its momentum from the end of the first half to take over the game.
The Tigers’ running game took over the offensive load and the Spartans’ defense had no answer.
Emotions were high on the sideline as a 10-0 lead had turned into a 33-10 deficit with 10:23 left in the fourth quarter. Reese lost all rhythm throwing two more interceptions while not making another completion for the rest of the game.
“We won’t know if we make the playoffs until Sunday, but these guys gave everything they could this season and I’m proud of them,” Sarceda said.