LA CAÑADA — After battling neck and neck to share the Rio Hondo League championship last season, the La Cañada High and South Pasadena boys' soccer teams renewed acquaintances Wednesday in their league opener.
Just like several previous matchups, the Spartans and Tigers found themselves locked in a tight battle with every possession crucial throughout the second half.
Two late La Cañada goals in the second half proved to be the difference and would give the Spartans the upper hand.
La Cañada received goals from Joseph Kim and Filipp Franke nearly 20 minutes apart to post a 2-1 home victory Wednesday afternoon in a match that featured three South Pasadena goalkeepers.
Trying to decipher the heated contest that featured South Pasadena's second goalkeeper picking up a red card for an intentional foul to deny a scoring opportunity by La Cañada wasn't an easy task for Spartans Coach Alex Harrison, who saw Franke scoring the winning goal with about two minutes remaining.
“There's just a lot of passion when these two teams get together,” said Harrison, whose team improved to 8-2-3 and is ranked eighth in the latest CIF Southern Section Division V poll. “There so much raw-tapped emotion and it's always a hard game to play.
“I'm just so happy to get the win and it dictates the pace of our league early.”
South Pasadena, which dipped to 7-1-1 and is sixth in the division, proved to be a worthy opponent yet again against the Spartans.
The Tigers controlled most of the tempo in the first half, which finished scoreless after South Pasadena starting goalkeeper Sam Hoadley-Britt suffered an injury after colliding with La Canada's Tristan Afshar while making a save inside the box in the 27th minute.
However, the Tigers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening minute of the second half on a shot from the right side by Zack Dunn that inadvertently deflected off a La Cañada defender and past goalkeeper Graham Labran-Boyd.
With South Pasadena having seized the momentum, La Cañada had a couple of good scoring chances, but couldn't convert.
The Spartans then caught a break in the 58th minute when La Cañada's Armaan Zare was obstructed by South Pasadena reserve goalkeeper Miguel Nila. The officials gave Nila a red card and awarded the Spartans with a direct kick. Nila was replaced by Clem Witherall, who saw a direct kick by Lawrence Ku strike the crossbar and bounce directly to Kim, who scored to even the match at 1.
Franke then gave the Spartans the lead for good when he took a nice cross pass from Jack Meeker to complete the scoring.
“I think the first goal that we scored seemed to lift us,” Franke said. “They were now on their third goalie and we had the momentum.”
“On my goal, I got a nice pass from Jack.
“These games are always crazy against them and it can be frustrating and fun. It's fun because we were able to pull it out. This is always going to be a big rivalry game.”
La Cañada and South Pasadena will meet again at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at South Pasadena.