Credit South Pasadena for ignoring the headlines. The Tigers came into last Friday night’s 59th edition of the Border War with a full wagon, but it wasn’t enough as San Marino struggled in the first half but eventually got it right and claimed a 21-6 in the annual rivalry game and – this year – the Rio Hondo League opener.
The actual contest rivaled emotional pregame festivities as Friday’s was the first game between the two schools ever played without Paul Crowley in attendance. Crowley, who graduated from what was then South Pasadena–San Marino High School and later became Mayor of San Marino – passed away in December of last year. Crowley had basically planned his entire existence around being available for the annual football tussle. Four years ago, the administrations from both schools approved the creation of the Crowley Cup in his honor and a trophy honoring his legendary utilitarian nature (a bucket nailed atop four posts and a base) was created, to go home with the winner.
Ironically, San Marino’s victory evened the all-time record at 29-29-3 after the Tigers held a distinct advantage through the 90s and into this century.
In Crowley’s stead, former Titan educator, athletic director and CIF Hall of Fame Coach Mickey McNamee was on hand to conduct the coin toss alongside former South Pasadena Coach and athletic director Ralph Punaro. Both men have battled cancer.
Crowley’s widow, Marie; granddaughter Kelly and son Jon also ventured to midfield, where they were greeted by Paul’s orange, moth-worn South Pasadena letter sweater and royal blue Titan baseball cap – sartorial staples Crowley donned each year to avoid showing favoritism. He also reportedly sat on the home side of the bleachers at every game as well, no matter where it was played.
When asked if the night summoned nostalgic emotions, Marie Crowley pointed to the upper southwest corner of South Pasadena’s Ray Solari Stadium.
“Our first date,” she said. “Right there. So yes, it does.”
Fitting, then, that Chip Crowley – Paul and Marie’s grandson – scored two touchdowns in a wild third quarter to propel San Marino to the win.
The first, a 19-yard reception from quarterback Andrew Ferraco on San Marino’s first drive of the third quarter and the second a 32-yard end-around option pass from Tyler Spitzer that faked the Tigers out of their out of their cleats.
In between, Tino Maese plunged over from a yard out after Ferraco hooked up with sophomore J.P. Shohfi for a 48-yard connection that placed the ball deep in South Pasadena territory.
Credit for that score also goes to Will Cobb, who steeled himself in the face of a half-dozen onrushing Tigers who were attempting an onside kick following their lone touchdown of the game, an 80-yard run by Heven Gomez. Justin Hill blocked that extra point, San Marino’s will Derrick made all three of his.
Maese also made a big defensive play. With 7:26 left in the game and the outcome still very uncertain, Maese foiled a screen pass on 4th and 11 to take the starch out of the hosts.
“We had one of those nights when we shoot ourselves in the foot,” said head Coach Mike Hobbie, who is 3-0 against the Tigers. “Our execution was not there, and when you combine that with some penalties, you get zero points in the first half. We really stopped ourselves.”
Senior linebacker Daniel Walsh led the defensive push with eight tackles followed by Maese and Paul Krimmel with seven apiece, Larsen Cobb with six and Spitzer, Matt Miller and Alex Knott, who recorded five each.
“For the most part, our defense played well,” said Hobbie. “South Pasadena had two big plays and we lined up wrong on both of them. To our guys’ credit, they ran many things that we had not seen all year, it was saved up for either us or the league. We did a really good job in the second half on both sides of the ball.”
Some felt Hobbie might have cut loose in the locker room after a scoreless first half. Not so.
“I just told them we had made enough errors and it was time to put that behind us and win the second half,” Hobbie said. “We had made some mistakes, but I felt the guys were playing hard. It wasn’t a matter of effort, we were just making some mistakes.”
Offensively, Ferraco rushed 15 times for 81 yards and junior tailback Tenny McFarlane picked up 139 yards on nineteen carries. Shohfi and Crowley had three receptions apiece for the Titans, who improved to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the Rio Hondo League.
“The offensive line did a very good job,” Hobbie said. “The defensive line also played exceptionally well. We have a lot of guys on defense who are very active and get things done.”
Hobbie also lauded Spitzer and Walsh for strong all-around performances.
…for Homecoming. Friday night will bring equal parts pomp, pageant and pounding. La Cañada – the Titans’ opponent tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. – is formidable, to say the least.
“They are a tough team,” said Hobbie. “They have a strong stable of running backs that can carry the ball and a couple of big linemen. We are going to have to play some smashmouth football, stop the run and hope they don’t beat us on the pass. They are not going to be easy to stop. They do not go backwards. They play hard. They fight. They don’t do too many things that will hurt them. Defensively, they get some fast guys out there and put them in your face. They try to make it difficult for you to play your game.”
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