Published : Thursday, November 13, 2014 | 12:55 PM
South Pasadena High won its final game of the season Friday night over La Cañada but, in an unusual twist, wound up forfeiting it to the Spartans and giving up the opportunity to reach the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 2003.
School officials say they are continuing to investigate an alleged CIF violation while not going into specifics as to why the football season came to an abrupt end as South Pasadena played the game believing they would reach the postseason with a victory over the host Spartans.
On social media sites Saturday are reports that Nick Konrad, the brother of South Pasadena High coach Marty Konrad, was allegedly videotaping a La Cañada High football practice earlier in the week. La Cañada officials reportedly filed the complaint with South Pasadena administrators, who immediately took action, looking into the issue and not allowing their head coach to be on the sideline against the Spartans.
On Saturday, South Pasadena Principal Janet Anderson said she would not comment “at this point” regarding the allegation. “I will say that a violation of CIF rules occurred,” she wrote in a text. “Our continuing investigation has to do with the details of the allegation.”
Following a bus ride home from the game and a celebration on the field after an apparent 21-3 victory, the players were notified by Anderson and the school’s athletic director, Greg Luna,that the Tigers’ season oddly was over despite putting together a 7-3 overall record, 3-2 in league play.
That is, until one victory was taken away as a result of the forfeit.
All week long, South Pasadena coaches and players stressed the importance of winning their final regular season game, as those involved players were mindful that a victory over La Cañada would end the long pain of not going to the postseason in the past 11 Years.
Concern that something wasn’t quite right, started prior to Friday’s kickoff when fans began to notice that Konrad, the Tigers’ fourth year coach, wasn’t walking the Tigers’ sideline. South Pasadena players were told before boarding the bus headed to the game that the coach wouldn’t be in attendance at the La Cañada game while an investigation was underway.
Near the end of the game with the Tigers comfortably in front by 18 points, fans began to celebrate the key victory by chanting “CIF, CIF, CIF…”
Midday on Thursday, Anderson said the school received a call about “improper behavior” regarding a CIF rule, prompting Luna and the principal to begin an investigation, look into the allegation, and determine how the Rio Hondo League wanted to handle it.
“We brought the league immediately in to consult about the situation,” said Anderson, noting that the principals at each of the five schools in the league were contacted. “We knew a lot was riding on tonight’s (Friday) game and a decision would have to be made quickly after the game (Friday) tonight,” she explained, “and (we had to look at) what recourse the league would take depending how the game ended.”
La Cañada High determined on Thursday, according to Anderson, that Friday’s regular season finale would be played under protest.That information was never passed on to the players prior to the contest. “It was homecoming for them, and they wanted their kids to play, and we wanted our kids to play,” she said. “And so we determined that it was important to let the game go on. If we had lost, they probably would have withdrawn their protest because it would be a moot point. But we had the wisdom of the Rio Hondo League leadership that should if it turned out that we would win, we would be in contact with the league, and what we found out is that South Pasadena needed to forfeit the win, and La Cañada would get it, along with the third place berth and would go onto the playoffs.”
After meeting with the players Friday night after the game, Anderson and Luna crafted a letter to parents involved in the South Pasadena High football program explaining as much about the situation they could while the investigation continues.
“First of all, we would like to thank you for your unwavering support this season,” they said in their joint letter. “What a remarkable season it has been with tonight’s game a beautiful jewel in the season’s crown. It is with very heavy hearts that we share with you what your sons have likely already shared.”
The Tigers had a dominant defensive effort in limiting La Cañada to just a 38-yard second half field goal Friday night. Offensively, picked up huge chunks of yardage on the ground all night, rolling to 14-0 first quarter lead. South Pasadena picked up its final touchdown early in the fourth quarter, showing plenty of enthusiasm after the score sensing it might be enough to get that long-awaited victory to clinch a CIF playoff spot.
It took only five plays in the the Tigers’ opening 65-yard drive for South Pasadena to take a 7-0 lead as Christian Carter found a big hole on a 38-yard TD run. Later in the quarter, the Tigers, pinned deep, used the power of running backs Matt Ayala, Ernesto Jauregui and Jeremy Gabler and, 38 and 14-yard receptions by South Pas receiver Max Luck to move swiftly down the field and get into scoring position. On first down from the La Cañada 12, South Pasadena quarterback Michael Partida hooked up the 6-foot-4 Luck, who went high over the smaller Spartan defensive back to bring down the ball in the right corner of the end zone, capping a 99-yard drive.
The Spartans (7-3, 3-2 with the forfeit victory) closed the gap to 14-3 with 6:59 left in the third quarter when Mikey Selsor connected on their lone field goal.
South Pas had a golden opportunity to seemingly ice the win with just over three minutes to go in the period when Jauregui lost control of the ball at the Spartans’ 1 as he darted up the middle for an apparent touchdown, La Cañada recovering the fumble for a touchback.
The way the Tigers’ defense was playing, it didn’t take long for the Tigers to secure the victory as Carter delivered again, busting up the middle on a 5-yard burst on their next possession, giving South Pasadena a 21-3 lead with 11:51 left in the fourth quarter.
South Pasadena’s offensive front, opening huge gaps all night, paved the way for Tiger running backs to find plenty of room to roam. On a night when South Pas rushed for 274 yards, Jauregui lead the way with 138 yards on 10 carries, followed by Carter picked up 59 yards on 5 carries and Ayala with 26 yards on five carries.
When the team returned to South Pasadena after the game, Anderson and Luna, joined by Tiger coaches on team the bus, delivered the news to the players that their season had come to an unfortunate end, void of playoff competition.
“We acknowledged and celebrated their accomplishments and their joy,” Anderson and Luna wrote to parents in the memo. “That made it all the harder to share with them that rather than continue into the CIF playoffs as the third place team, their season has come to an end.”
Added Anderson and Luna in the letter: “La Cañada played tonight’s game under protest. Had they won, the protest would likely have been moot. With us winning the game, the Rio Hondo League leadership determined that SPHS would forfeit the game and La Cañada would take the third place spot.”
In the letter, they stressed that the players “did things correctly,” noting that the violations had nothing to do with their behavior. “We also shared that since it is an ongoing investigation, there are details we will not be sharing at this time,” reads the letter. “Due to the time sensitive nature of playoff seeding, we do not expect there to be a change in this ruling. We are sending you information as quickly and as thoroughly as we can tonight, however brief it necessarily is.”
Anderson and Luna, in the letter, encouraged parents to process with Tiger players the disappointment of not moving onto the playoffs, “highlighting the many stellar points experienced throughout this season,” they wrote.
Taking the victory out of the win column, the forfeit gives South Pasadena a 6-4 record and a fourth place finish behind league champion Monrovia, San Manino and La Cañada and just ahead of Temple City and Blair.
Mike DeLucia, who has a son on the team, wrote a letter to South Pasadena High Principal Janet Anderson, looking for answers. “There are still so many unanswered questions that the administration will not provide,” he said in part. “Instead, the administration decided to set our boys up for unnecessary heartbreak by withholding from them, their parents and all supporters of SPHS football, pertinent information about the series of events that ultimately led to this fiasco.”
In Konrad’s absence, assistant coach Marc Shettleroe, took over for the Tigers’ head coach on Friday night and, despite the loss, knows his club gave a solid performance on the football field. “I couldn’t be any more prouder,” said the assistant coach after the game, his players dancing at midfield immediately after the game thinking they were playing another week.”I’m just happy for the program and for South Pas.”
In his mind, along with the South Pasadena players, South Pasadena will be 7-3 overall, 3-2 in league in 2014 forever.
When it was suggested by a reporter minutes after the game that South Pas could be out of the playoffs as a result of a forfeit, Shettleroe said, “We beat them,” talking about La Cañada. “That’s all I care about. The kids played great.”
Look for updates to this story.