You’ll have to excuse the South Pasadena High School if it’s overly excited about the upcoming season.
The Tigers are bent on building on last season’s coming out party when they went 8-3 and were in league championship contention deep into the season. With several key starters back, who can blame them for the optimism?
“Our philosophy this year is ‘next step'” South Pasadena head coach C.B. Richards said. “Last year, we put in a couple things, got my system set up and set the culture of the program. We did a lot of things in the offseason. We increased the weight room. Guys are a lot stronger. And also our numbers are up.”
Numbers are key for South Pas. Richards said last year’s varsity roster was 24 before junior varsity players were brought up for Friday nights. This year, there’s close to 40 players on the roster. And many of them are important returners.
All-purpose weapon Jalen Ross is the headliner of the group. He was an All-Area selection last season and can do a multitude of things on offense in addition to being a shut-down corner back on defense.
Quarterback Adam Arellano is also back and he’s set to work behind what could be one of the bigger offensive lines in the area. All-league center Franco Pineda. The size comes at the tackles where Ben Martinez (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) has the left side and coaches are trying to sculpt Jacob Wilson (6-5, 300) into the starter at right tackle.
South Pasadena also has back one of the Rio Hondo League’s better defensive players in linebacker Ben Quirk.
Arguably, the best news the program got came in the offseason when CIF altered how it does playoff divisions with teams from the same league being placed in different divisions. Last season, South Pasadena played in the Central Division along with eventual champ San Marino and Monrovia.
The Tigers were blasted by Glendora in the first round. But this season, South Pasadena is in the more doable Division 10 while San Marino is in Division 6 and Monrovia is in Division 7. That means the Tigers really need to place an emphasis on a top-three finish in league in order for a chance at playoff success.
“It’s better than it was,” Richards said of his team’s division placement. “It’s perfect for our situation because we’re trying to improve and be successful in the playoffs on our level. If we can make the playoffs, it gives us a chance to maybe have a little more success, which may lead to more guys on our campus who weren’t thinking about playing football coming out.”
Richards has beefed up South Pasadena’s nonleague schedule. Whereas last year’s early games saw the Tigers play Glendale and Hoover, this year it’s Rosemead and Bonita.
Rosemead is the first game of the season in Week 0 on Aug. 26 and will surely let the area know whether the Tigers are indeed ready to take the next step.
“We picked up Rosemead because I know they’re going to be a tough-minded football team and it’s going to be a great test for us,” Richards said. “We love going against Rosemead because we know they’re going to test us. I wanted to set the tone right out of the gate that this is the level of football we expect to play.”