San Marino High School varsity football coach Justin Mesa hoped to accomplish a few goals in his first campaign and succeeded on the final day of the regular season as he guided the Titans to a 35-0 rout over visiting Temple City on senior night last Friday.
With the victory, San Marino (4-6 overall record) improved to 3-1 in the Rio Hondo League standings and placed second. The Titans clinched a CIF Southern Section Division 10 playoff berth and will travel to Santa Ana to face Orange in a first-round game at Segerstrom High School.
“I’m just excited for the kids that were able to get this done,” Mesa said. “The seniors had a lot to go through. It took a while. It was tough for them. I talked to the seniors and told them that I don’t want this to be a wasted year. This is not a rebuilding year. The goal was to win league, and we fell short one game. We solidified ourselves as a second-place team, came back and are in the playoffs.”
San Marino struggled to find its identity early in the season, dropping its first four games. The Titans showed signs of life in a 12-0 victory at Bell Gardens. They were defeated in the following two contests but were victorious in the final three Rio Hondo League games.
“I’m just so glad this coaching staff got to have a playoff game,” Mesa said. “It was a rough start, and we had a couple of things we had to take care of internally as a team. But we really turned it around. It was good for us to get together and work hard to find consistency. We worked through the rough patch. Somewhere around the middle of the year, we started playing good defense. The offense struggled a bit more, but we were able to get the kids’ trust as we went along.”
Mesa was especially happy for his seniors.
“That’s what pleases me the most,” Mesa said. “We were able to salvage the season for the kids who have been in the program for years.”
The Titans will take on a talented Panthers team that enters the postseason as the Orange League champion with an overall record of 9-1. Despite the opposition’s successful regular season, San Marino enters the game without any nerves. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“I think there’s a good amount of confidence,” Mesa said. “I really do. They’re focused. There’s no cockiness, but a confidence. That’s where I want them. … You want your team loose, but not too loose. They were ready for Temple City. There was no need for a pre-game speech. And I think they’ll be ready this Friday.”