LA CAÑADA — It was tough for the La Cañada High football team to find its footing in its homecoming game against South Pasadena on Friday.
So the Spartans opted for the air, something they haven’t really had much success with all season.
La Cañada made it work with its passing game, but fell short, as the South Pasadena ground game ran rampant in turning back the Spartans, 27-13, in a Rio Hondo League game.
Despite remaining winless in league, La Cañada coach Jason Sarceda said this effort was a silver lining in a tough season.
“I wish we had this fight all season,” Sarceda said. “Yes, I was disgruntled with some of our bad plays, but I was excited that we were that aggressive. We haven’t been that aggressive all year.”
The Spartans’ offense mustered 264 yards through the air, their first 200-yard performance this season.
“Our passing is what gets us down the field,” La Cañada quarterback Matt Bromley said. “In the second half, we knew we had to pass to move the ball because our runs just weren’t working. We did it, and it worked. It was a great half, we didn’t put any points up, but other than that, passing game was really strong.”
Bromley finished 18 for 28 in passing for 264 yards and two interceptions. Walker Baggett led the receivers with five catches for 76 yards. Running back Mario Colon led the ground game with six carries for 37 yards and scored the opening Spartans touchdown.
‘We were stalemating on our run game,” Sarceda said. “That’s what we started with, but it disintegrated. We haven’t been able to produce much on the ground, so we had to throw the ball.”
While La Cañada (1-8, 0-3 in league) tried to get its run game going, the South Pasadena offense thrived on the ground.
The Tigers amassed 256 rushing yards for four touchdowns.
“We’ve been struggling with our passing game,” South Pasadena coach Jeff Chi said. “Our goal was to run the ball, have ball control and manage the time and try to grind it out. It worked for us tonight.”
Bromley and the Spartans opened their first drive with a 52-yard connection to receiver Justin Zoltzman. Colon capped the 1:47 minute possession with a two-yard run to start the scoring at 7-0.
The La Cañada defense stifled South Pasadena (3-7, 1-3) and forced a three-and-out, but Bromley threw his first interception on the upcoming Spartans drive and spotted the Tigers near midfield.
South Pasadena ran three running plays and scored on a 15-yard run to tie it at 7 with 6:27 left in the opening quarter.
The Spartans attempted a fake punt on fourth down and avoided the three-and-out to keep its third possession alive with 4:26 left . Ten plays later, the Spartans settled for a 28-yard field goal, which kicker Andy Kozanian nailed, to regain the lead at 10-7 with 35.8 left in the first quarter.
With four seconds left, Colon came away with the ball to end the quarter with possession, but 10 seconds into the second quarter, Bromley threw his second pick and the Tigers regained possession in midfield.
South Pasadena took advantage and capped its five-play drive with a 45-yard run for the 14-10 lead with 8:53 left in the half.
After it’s first punt of the game with 7:07 in the half, the Spartans committed three consecutive personal fouls, gifting the Tigers 45 yards on penalties in which they celebrated with a one-yard quarterback sneak for a 21-10 lead 2:22 left before half.
The Spartans forced a fumble early in the second half and recovered the ball on their 40.
La Cañada strung together five passes on its opening drive of the second half to march down the field to the South Pasadena 12, but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal. Kozanian struck for his second kick, and cut the Tigers’ lead to 21-13.
The Tigers continued to charge down the field and scored on their second possession of the half on a 53-yard run that broke two tackles and gave the visitors a 27-13 lead with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
La Cañada again deferred to passing and a 48-yard strike to Baggett to set the Spartans up at their 5. The Spartans couldn’t make use of their opportunity, though, as they fumbled the ball and the Tigers recovered on their 6.
La Cañada nearly scored again on its final possession of the game, but the opportunity was again squandered with penalty calls that pegged the Spartans from the 6 back to the 40-yard line.