LA CAÑADA — In its past two games, the La Cañada High football team endured back-to-back lopsided defeats by Rio Hondo League powerhouses San Marino and Monrovia.
“We haven’t turned that corner yet,” La Cañada Coach James Sims said. “It’s only my second year and we are still building a program. We’re not ready yet for Monrovias of the world right now, but I told them we have to beat the teams we are supposed to beat.”
The Spartans opened the league campaign beating one of those teams in Blair and on Friday, following the losses to the Titans and Wildcats, it was time to face another of those squads on the road against South Pasadena.
“We [are] supposed to beat South Pasadena,” Sims said. “They are [winless] in league. We’re supposed to beat them.”
It did not prove to be an easy task as, despite not allowing a touchdown, La Cañada found itself trailing entering the final quarter before running away with the victory late, defeating the host Tigers 21-9 Friday night.
“This feels good,” La Cañada quarterback Robbie Fuelling said. “A great win and great team effort.”
The Spartans (4-5, 2-2) trailed, 9-7, after three quarters on the strength of three South Pasadena field goals off the foot of Heven Gomez.
Starting the final frame La Cañada faced a fourth down and five yards to go nine yards away from the end zone and the lead. Fuelling got under center and barked out a hard count, drawing a Tigers defensive lineman to jump and giving the Spartans a key first down.
On the next play, Spartan Donnie Breneman, who had 100 yards on 13 carries in the pivotal second half, burrowed up the middle for a four-yard touchdown and the lead. Freshman Sam Adida lined up to kick the extra point before La Cañada had a player run on late and called a timeout. After the stoppage, the Spartans lined up for two and Fuelling rolled to his right before cutting upfield and making it into the end zone just inside the pylon. La Cañada led, 15-9, with 11:11 left in the contest and would not trail again.
South Pasadena (3-6, 0-4) got the ball back for just its second possession of the second half. But the Tigers only held the ball for four plays, as the Spartan defense stiffened, stopping the Tigers on fourth and two.
On the ensuing drive, the Spartans’ power running attack put the game away, finishing with a one-yard scoring run to the right side by Anthony Connell on fourth down for the game’s final points. Earlier in the 50-yard drive, Fuelling’s legs came into play again, as the senior plowed forward for a four-yard gain to convert on fourth and one at the 35-yard line.
La Cañada held a 7-6 advantage at halftime. The home team took a 6-0 lead after the first quarter on 31- and 37-yard field goals by Gomez, but the Spartans took the lead into the locker room on the strength of a touchdown run by Jadon Henry. The senior ran it in from 38 yards out with 4:36 left in the second. Adida, called up to varsity to replace regular kicker Michael Selsor, who was out after breaking his elbow against Monrovia, then successfully booted through the point after to give La Cañada its first lead at 7-6.
The Spartans opened the second half with the ball, but Fuelling was picked off on a fourth down throw by Tiger Ernesto Jauregui. South Pasadena soon converted the turnover to points when Gomez kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Next for the Spartans as they chase third place is Temple City, which took its turn Friday night getting blown out by San Marino.
“I’m proud of them,” Sims said. “We’ve got a tough one against a Temple City team who I think we are equal to in talent. [The winner] will be the team that makes the least mistakes.”