Being On the Field Is a Victory For Players, Coaches

Photo by Eric Danielson/Outlook Valley Sun
After several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the La Cañada High School varsity football team played its first game since Nov. 1, 2019, last Friday. Despite falling to Rio Hondo League rival South Pasadena, 36-30, it was a win for LCHS players and coaches who have patiently waited for an opportunity to get back on the field.

The date and environment may have been different, but for the South Pasadena High School and La Cañada High School varsity football teams, the feeling of playing under the Friday night lights was the same.
Players, coaches and fans could disconnect from a COVID-19 world for nearly three hours to enjoy some high school football; the Spartans had not played an official game in more than 16 months.
“It’s been quite some time,” said SPHS quarterback Noah Aragon. “It’s been about a year and half since I got to play this game that I love so much, and it just felt amazing. Just getting out here, being with the guys, scoring touchdowns and doing our thing is awesome.”
The final score — which favored South Pasadena, 36-30 — was seemingly irrelevant to many players and coaches. Just being on the field was a victory, especially the seniors. The Tigers boast 11 on their roster and a young Spartan squad has seven.
“I’m really happy for our seniors to get the opportunity to get the opportunity to be out here to play,” said La Cañada head coach Jason Sarceda. “We were excited. We’ve been excited. We’ve just been waiting for the opportunity.”
Terrence Sweetman was certainly grateful to put on the pads again. The South Pasadena standout who led the state with 13 interceptions in 2019 was anticipating a senior year without football.
“I honestly didn’t think it would happen,” he said. “I was preparing not to [play]. I was preparing to just run track, but it’s amazing we can come out and play. I felt safe.”
Tigers head coach Jeff Chi echoed his player and said he was already preparing for next fall season.
“We were just getting into that offseason mode then all of a sudden we’re told we got to go,” he said. “I thought, ‘What?’ So we’re trying to gather all the players back, get them in shape, get our timing back on offense and be cohesive on defense. It was a challenge.”
It was a welcome one for Sarceda, whose belief in a season never wavered in what has been a difficult year for all.
“We never lost faith that we were going to be able to play,” he said. “I know it’s been tough, but we as a family stayed with it all, losing players, transfers and so on and so forth. There was heart in all of our guys and they kept on grinding. We kind of felt like it was going to happen because we were determined to make it happen.”
La Cañada’s Ivan Ostry certainly made it happen for himself. The senior transferred from Rosemead High School after the El Monte Union School District announced in January that it would cancel the football season.
“It felt good,” said Ostry, who rushed for 2,284 yards and 28 touchdowns as a quarterback in 2019. “It’s definitely a blessing and I’m glad to be here. … [Playing football] was definitely very unexpected. The change is chaotic, but I’m glad to be on the field. Of course I miss my old teammates, but it’s good to make new friendships and new bonds. I love this team.”
The joy and love seemed to be contagious despite the rivalry between South Pasadena and La Cañada. There were plenty of examples of sportsmanship throughout the game, such as players giving props to the opposition for a good play.
“It felt amazing,” Sweetman said. “I love playing these guys. They’re all great people and gave great effort.”