The large crowd at San Marino High School’s Titan Stadium was as electric as ever on Friday night, and for good reason. The varsity football team was set to square off with eight-time defending Rio Hondo League champion Monrovia, a team it had not beaten in 12 years. The Titans didn’t let their fans’ palpable energy go to waste and fed off it to score their biggest victory in recent memory.
San Marino jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 49-14 victory over the Wildcats, placing the Titans in a good position to capture their first league championship since 1995.
“Honestly, it feels so great,” said senior linebacker Chaz Davis, who recovered a fumble to help the Titans snap Monrovia’s 38-game winning streak over Rio Hondo League rivals. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier in my life. … To get this done tonight was awesome and give back to our community, we just live in such a great place. The support we get, especially tonight, was just awesome. It’s never been better.”
It doesn’t get any easier for San Marino (7-0 overall record, 2-0 in league) this weekend. The Titans, ranked No. 2 in the CIF-Southern Section Central Division, will travel to South Pasadena to take on their unbeaten rivals this Friday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m.
“We still have got two huge [games],” said Davis. We have to take care of business and play our best and, hopefully, qualify for CIF.”
A Blazing Start
There was no need for an inspirational pregame speech from SMHS head coach Mike Hobbie. He never even mentioned the opponent to his players.
“My guys will tell you we didn’t have one talk about who we were playing and why it was important,” said Hobbie. “I said earlier in pregame to them, ‘I didn’t even mention Monrovia this week. If you’re not ready to play this game, you’re never going to be ready for any game.”
The Titans wasted little time in showing their coach their readiness. They opened the game with an 80-yard drive capped by a 35-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Carson Glazier and JP Shohfi with 8:55 remaining in the first quarter.
“The energy level was there,” said Hobbie, who entered Friday’s contest with an 0-4 record against Monrovia. “I thought we had a really good game plan. They executed it extremely well.”
One specific game plan was telling his defensive backs to be ready to jump on short passes. The coaches worked on a specific defensive scheme all week long, and it paid off on Monrovia’s first drive on offense. On third down and 2, Asaph Zamora dropped back and quickly threw the ball to the left side of the field toward tight end Tyler Romo, but San Marino cornerback Sean Sung perfectly read the play and intercepted the pass.
“I couldn’t believe I had the ball in my hands, actually,” he said. “ … It was unbelievable. Thanks to coach I was in a position to make that play.”
Sung saw nothing but open field ahead of him and returned it 26 yards for a score, extending San Marino’s lead to 14 points.
“That’s always a great way to start the game,” Shohfi said. “We just came out with some really high energy and it showed with an early touchdown and early pick-six. That was just huge momentum for us. It’s always great to come out and score early, especially for us.”
The Shohfi Show
The Wildcats (4-3 overall, 1-1 in league) are well aware of Shohfi’s talents. The All-CIF wide receiver burned Monrovia defenders last year with eight receptions for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Shohfi was not close to matching those numbers, but he was just as effective.
After forcing a three-and-out on defense, San Marino started its second drive on their own 40-yard line with 3:59 remaining in the first quarter. Just under two minutes later, Shohfi took a handoff behind the line scrimmage and ran into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown this season, giving the Titans an unprecedented 21-point cushion.
On the ensuing possession, a rattled Monrovia offense was unable to find its rhythm and elected to punt after gaining only 3 yards in three plays.
The Wildcats elected to kick the ball inbounds, a decision they quickly would regret. Shohfi wove his way past a wave of defenders near midfield and switched to another gear when he saw nothing but green ahead of him. The standout Titan returned the punt 73 yards for a score to send his team and the home crowd into a frenzy, as San Marino led 28-0 by the end of the first quarter.
“Anytime you get a defensive touchdown, it’s huge,” Hobbie said. “Then Shohfi ran the punt return back and we got the momentum. It was hard for [Monrovia].”
The quick start was particularly important for Shohfi, who admitted to reading of Monrovia’s dominance in the Rio Hondo League on Twitter.
“We knew, all right,” he said. “Monrovia has always been the team to beat for us. We just knew we had a job to do.
“Hearing about all that stuff? It’s not the worst,” he added. “It’s kind of something that motivates us. You know what? We’re tired of hearing about this stuff, and it’s good to be able to come into the game with that motivation and come in and do our best to beat them.”
The motivation was evident in every player on offense. Behind the stellar blocking of Joey Duranso, Andre Tsai, David Wang, Matt Ary and Max Abughazaleh, Glazier had enough time to allow his receivers to run their routes. He completed only eight of 11 passes but threw for 218 yards and two scores. One of the highlights on offense came in the final quarter when the All-CIF quarterback found an open Aiden Santino down the left sideline. Monrovia defenders were unable to bring down the speedy receiver, and the play was finally whistled dead on the 1-yard line. The play set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Mark Wicke.
“Obviously, as you can tell, that kid hits the weight room,” Glazier said of Santino. “You’re not going to bring him down with one guy. We all love him and he’s one of the best guys I know. He cares just as much as anyone.”
Santino led his team with four catches for 132 yards and also threw a 24-yard pass to Michael Chan on a trick play in the second half. Chan finished the game with two catches for 54 yards and 55 rushing yards on 13 carries. Akbar Mahmood caught a 10-yard touchdown pass and Glazier added 16 yards on the ground, including a 7-yard touchdown scamper.
Making a Statement
San Marino sent a message to the entire Central Division with a dominant victory over the Wildcats, but it was the Titans’ defense that made the biggest statement. The team has been called out for its schedule, but the defenders showed that it doesn’t matter who they play. They’re ready to take on any challenge.
“We knew we had a better defensive squad this year, and we absolutely proved that tonight with their opening drive ending with a pick-six,” said Glazier. “It just puts on everyone’s mind that San Marino’s defense can actually play. This is a special year for us.”
The defense allowed 302 yards of total offense, but most of it came in the second half when the damage was already done. The Wildcats scored early in the third quarter and later added another touchdown on a 7-yard touchdown run from John Mckee to cut the deficit to 49-12.
San Marino scored early in the fourth with Wicke’s touchdown run, which extended the Titans’ lead to 49-14 and forced a running clock.
Adrian Licon and Mark Uriarte each recorded sacks for the Titans, whose relentless pressure rattled Zamora. The quarterback didn’t have time to look for a deep ball, but whenever he did go long, Patrick Crowley was there to break up the pass.
“To put that score up on them feels great, but I am proud of the progress the defense is making,” said Davis. “We still have improvements to make. We have to get ready for some of the games ahead.”
Davis also credits his coaches for putting the defense in a position to succeed against one of its toughest opponents this season.
“We have the players, but we have to give a lot of credit to our coaching and game plan,” he said. “Hobbie is a football genius, and the assistant coaches he gets, I don’t even know how they’re assistant coaches. In my opinion, almost all of them could be head coaches at other schools. Our game plan is set by our coaches, and we were in the right places.”