First published in the Oct. 28 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Perhaps nobody who headed west for Friday night’s rivalry football game should have expected a different outcome, considering that the majority of the classic horror movie “Halloween” was filmed in South Pasadena.
San Marino fans probably watched the final minutes of the annual battle for the Crowley Cup through gapes in their fingers as the host Tigers pulled off an ending for the ages, scoring a game-winning touchdown with just over a minute remaining to defeat San Marino, 24-21, and break a 10-game losing streak to the Titans.
San Marino’s record fell to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Rio Hondo League as their hopes of reaching postseason play were dimmed dramatically.
“Crushed,” said San Marino head coach Ray Torres while shaking his head and trying to describe the team’s response to the painful loss. “And it’s not just the seniors. Everybody is hurting after this one.”
Now, possibly, San Marino knows how South Pasadena felt on the chilly night of Friday, April 2, during this calendar year’s rare spring football season due to the pandemic. Harry Wendling, at the time a SMHS senior, converted a 37-yard field goal to defeat South Pasadena on the last play to cap a furious rally in the final minute which gave the Titans a 22-20 victory over the Tigers in the 66th game of the storied rivalry. The field goal attempt followed a pass interference call in the end zone that advanced the ball within within Wendling’s range and set off a celebration that made many Titan fans forget about about COVID…at least temporarily.
South Pasadena is now enjoying a similar feeling.
Buoyed by a packed crowd that showed up for the rivalry, Homecoming and the pregame induction of two dozen student-athletes into the school’s hall of fame, the Tigers immediately seized momentum.
Trailing 7-0, San Marino pulled even on a 13-yard pass from quarterback Niko Mavridis to fellow senior Andrew Hornberger with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Tigers built a 17-7 halftime lead but San Marino emerged from the locker room a different team. The Titans sliced the deficit to 17-14 when Mavridis and Hornberger hooked up again on a 45-yard connection with 7:43 left in the third stanza.
The SMHS defense held the Tigers in check and San Marino seemed poised to keep the Crowley Cup when the Mavridis-to-Hornberger connection struck again from 13 yards out with three minutes left in the contest. Freshman placekicker Toby Pedroza’s third successful conversion gave San Marino a 21-17 advantage.
But South Pas quarterback Jackson Freking, who entered the game when starter Noah Aragon was injured, found Grant Huntley in a crease amidst four defenders for the game-winning touchdown with 1:07 left in the contest.
The Titans made a final push and Mavridis found sophomore Coleman Morning for a 24-yard completion that advanced the ball to the Tigers’ 46-yard line. But San Marino could get no further and the contest ended on a completion from Mavridis to sophomore running back Ryder Yoshitake that fell short of the first down marker, sending the jubilant home crowd into a frenzy.
It took assistant coaches exactly 19 seconds to cross the field at Ray Solari Stadium and retrieve the Crowley Cup and varsity perpetual trophy, the two artifacts which go to the winner of the annual contest and had not been in South Pasadena’s possession since 2010.
“This was rough, really rough,” Torres said. “Our guys came out in the second half and did exactly what we asked them to do. There was just one drive that we had a mistake. But that is a learning moment for our team.”
Torres gave credit to Yoshitake, who had 12 carries for 56 yards and played well at linebacker.
“He was all over the place, again,” Torres said.
Mavridis ended the night completing 17 of 33 passes for 223 yards and the three touchdowns.
The coach also singled out Hornberger, who caught eight of Mavridis’ passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns. The senior also made five tackles on defense.
“He has been consistent all year,” said Torres, who also mentioned sophomores Nick Escamilla, Ryan Park and Morning for their exceptional efforts.
“Coleman does exactly what he needs to do every single week,” the coach said of the two-way threat, who made six catches, recovered a fumble and recorded six tackles.
His plaudits were extended to senior two-way star Michael Prappas, who made 10 tackles, intercepted a pass and had a reception.
Offensive lineman Brendan Gill was also praised for his hard work as was senior Jayden Hollomand, who recorded seven tackles and intercepted a pass.
“I told him after the game that it is such a bummer that he is a senior,” Torres said of Hollomand, who played football for the first time this year. “He is so naturally athletic and he has a feel for what he is doing. Whatever we tell him to do in practice, he does in the game. He made a huge interception for us.”