Mike Hobbie never underestimates an opponent, and those familiar with his style often quip that he is “the Lou Holtz of high school football.”
Holtz, the beloved Notre Dame coach, was known for press conferences where he doubted his Fighting Irish’s chances against much lesser opponents. Last week, Hobbie held serious concerns about the Titans’ Thursday evening showdown at Temple City, a team San Marino has dominated in recent years. But this fears were assuaged by what Hobbie called the best game of the season as the Titans cruised to a 68-14 win, setting up this Friday’s contest at Monrovia as a winner-take-all Rio Hondo League title game between the two teams which have not lost a league event.
“We had our best game, all things considered,” Hobbie said. “We had a really good game. The main thing that hurt us was penalties. We helped them along on a couple of their drives. Temple City made some once plays, but we gave them a lot of assistance.”
The Titans had a bye week to prepare for the Rams and the extra rest paid huge dividends, as quarterback Kade Wentz, all-purpose threat Wheeler Smith, defensive back Steven Barraza, wide receiver Jake Leftwich and center Tommy Long returned to duty.
Two weeks after setting a new school career rushing mark, senior tailback Beau Hobbie rushed 15 times for 204 yards and four touchdowns in a little over a half of play to lead the assault. Smith and Leftwich also found the end zone as did backup quarterback Connor Short, wide receiver Sean Richardson, tailback Matthew Karapetyan and Neven Yarahmadi, who picked off quarterback Alex Vera and returned it for a score.
Wentz played his first downs since suffering a shoulder injury during the team’s September 14 win over Bell Gardens and barely missed a beat, completing five of his six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Karapetyan was again solid in relief, carrying twice for 37 yards and Short continued to prove his mettle with 54 yards on five carries.
Defensively, the Titans continued to shine, led by middle linebacker Chris Wicke, who was in on nine tackles. Mason Dawes turned in another stellar performance with seven tackles, a blocked punt and a forced fumble. Seth Matzumoto and Smith made eight stops each and defensive tackle Beau Perez was his typical unblockable self, adding seven tackles while pestering the Rams’ offense all night long. Linebacker Sam Fu recovered a fumble as the Titans improved to 3-0 in Rio Hondo League action and 7-1-1 overall.
Speaking at the Pasadena Quarterbacks Club the next day, Hobbie said that Thursday night’s performance was “our best game of the season.”
“It really and truly was a great team effort,” said Hobbie, who struggled to single out many of his charges.
The coach eventually lauded Wicke for his solid performance at middle linebacker and admired the effort by Dawes.
“Neven Yarahmadi had a good game,” Hobbie said. “That is a young man I haven’t mentioned much but he played exceptionally well.”
San Marino has now outscored its league opponents 167-14.
Big Cat Crossing
The Titans will need more of the same on Friday if they hope to defeat Monrovia for what would be just the second time in Hobbie’s eight seasons at the helm. During that span, the Wildcats have won six of the seven league football championships. The one that got away? The 2015 affair, when San Marino ambushed visiting Monrovia by a final score of 49-14, launching the Titans all the way to the CIF title.
“We are going to have to score a lot of points,” Hobbie said, admittedly stating the obvious. “This is one of those teams that plays right into our weaknesses. They match us up man to man on their offensive line blocking and they have a really good running back (the aptly named Maury Rams IV), who has both speed and power. Because of the way they spread it out, it will be necessary for us to defend everything. They also have a very good quarterback who can throw and is also a good runner. And some excellent receivers. I really would have liked to have played them earlier in the season, because they have gotten a lot better. It looks like they have really ironed things out in recent weeks.”
Nick Hernandez, Monrovia’s junior quarterback, has completed 88 of 126 passes—an impressive clip of .698 per cent—for 1,678 yards, compiled mostly against solid pre-league action.
“They are, again, very solid in all facets of the game,” Hobbie concluded. “It will take an excellent effort for us to beat these guys.”