The San Marino High School varsity football team picked up a big victory on a memorable evening, defeating visiting La Cañada, 42-7, in a Rio Hondo League game on homecoming night last Friday.
The Titans (3-6 overall record) improved to 2-1 in league, and is in the driver’s seat for second place in the standings. A victory over Temple City on Nov. 1 would solidify San Marino as the runner-up, giving Mesa and his squad an automatic CIF Southern Section playoff berth.
“I think you saw what we’re trying to be — a tough and physical football team that can establish the run and throw it when they have to and when the opportunity presents itself,” Mesa said. “It’s what we’ve been trying to do, which is win the turnover battle, run the ball and play really good defense. We’ve allowed seven points to opponents who are known to put up points.”
It didn’t take long for the defense to make a statement. La Cañada quarterback Brandon Reese was intercepted by Seth Matzumoto on the second play of the opening drive. The Titans capitalized on the opportunity and scored three plays later on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Connor Short to Andrew Sutherland, giving the home team a 7-0 advantage after the extra point with 9:46 remaining in the first quarter.
The Spartans (5-3 overall, 1-1 in league) responded with a long kickoff return that placed them past midfield. Jacob Hardy ran for 21 yards to give La Cañada a first down and place his squad in four-down territory.
However, the Titans’ defense rose to the occasion and forced a turnover on downs. The offense didn’t disappoint and capped a seven-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown run from Nick Singhal, extending his team’s lead to 14 points.
On the next possession, a rattled La Cañada struggled to muster a solid drive and was forced to punt. The kicker was unable to hold on to the snap and the Titans swarmed him to get the ball 10 yards away from the end zone. Matthew Karapetyan scored from 6 yards out on the second play of the short drive to give San Marino a big 21-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Spartans managed to find pay dirt in the second quarter, but turnovers plagued them later in the contest and gave San Marino more opportunities to increase its lead. Safety Nathan Fajardo recovered a fumble with 5:49 remaining in the first half and intercepted a pass in the third quarter.
“It was a struggle for us,” said LCHS head coach Jason Sarceda. “[San Marino] came out and played a solid game. They didn’t depart from what we expected.
We just got beat. There’s no excuse for us. We had to come and play, and we didn’t. We had some mishaps early on. Once those three bad turns hit us, we couldn’t rebound from it. It was definitely a tough one. Hats off to Justin over here and his program for sticking to his plan.”
Short completed six of 10 passes for 71 yards and threw touchdown passes to Trond Grizzell and Karapetyan. The senior quarterback also ran for a score. Singhal gained 106 yards and scored three touchdowns.
San Marino will take a much-needed bye this week and prepare for the showdown against Temple City at home on Friday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m.
“We’ve told them since the Monrovia game that we’re in the playoffs,” Mesa said. “There’s no guarantee we get in but we’re in playoff mode. We’re in game three of the playoffs. If we lose, we go home. They’re focused and we have a bye week, which is huge. We’ll welcome the bye with open arms. Our kids deserve it.”