The La Cañada High School varsity football team has already accomplished a number of achievements this season but head coach Jason Sarceda set a loftier goal for his program. He wants to guide the Spartans to their first CIF Southern Section playoff berth since 2016, a feat that is now in jeopardy following a 42-7 loss at San Marino High School last Friday.
The Spartans (5-3 overall record, 1-1 in league) committed three costly turnovers and the Titans (3-6 overall, 2-1 in league) took advantage of the short field to build a 21-point lead in the first quarter that was too much for a rattled La Cañada to overcome.
“Pretty bad plays right out of the gate,” Sarceda said. “It was a struggle for us. They came out and played a solid game. … We just got beat. There’s no excuse for us. We had to come out and play, and we didn’t.”
LC quarterback Brandon Reese was intercepted on his first pass attempt. Three plays later, San Marino quarterback Connor Short connected with Andrew Sutherland for an 13-yard touchdown.
The Spartans’ offense stalled on the ensuing possession and turned the ball over on downs, which led to another score from home team.
On its third possession, La Cañada attempted a punt on fourth-and-long deep in its territory, but the kicker was unable to field the snap. The Titans recovered on the 10-yard line, and Matthew Karapetyan scored on the second play of the short drive with a 6-yard run.
Reese was picked off again in the third quarter. Both of his turnovers bounced off receivers and into the hands of a Titan defender.
“It was definitely a tough one,” said Sarceda, whose offense was held to 104 yards. “Hats off to [SMHS head coach] Justin [Mesa] over here and his program for sticking to his plan. We just got to get back and refocus.”
Reese, who completed eight of 21 passes for 53 yards, scored the Spartans’ lone touchdown in the second quarter with a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Playmaker Dez Delgatty was held to three receptions for 40 yards.
“I’m very disappointed,” Sarceda said. “We have a lot of things we have to clean up. I’m not pleased with the last three games giving up about 40 points per game. That’s something we must iron out.
“We dropped a lot of passes. That hurts. Sometimes, that’s football.”
The top two teams in the Rio Hondo League qualify for a postseason berth, and the Spartans are currently second in the loss column. However, La Cañada closes out the season against its two toughest opponents in Monrovia and South Pasadena. The Spartans will host the first-place Wildcats on senior night this Friday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m.
“I just told them we have to focus and get healthy and get back after it. We can’t count out the game against Monrovia. We have to go out and compete. We have hardnosed players and must put them in a position to win. We had guys out of position today, and that hurt.”