VST Game of the Week: Cougars tame the Tigers.
It was an emotional night at Kevin Williams Stadium as members of the San Fernando community and the San Fernando High alumni paid tribute to the Tigers' legendary running back, the late Charles White. White graduated from San Fernando High School in 1976 and went on to have four successful years at the University of Southern California, including winning the Heisman Trophy in 1979 and playing in three Rose Bowl Victories with one National Title Championship in 1978.
White was later drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1980 where he played five seasons before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. He finished his career in 1988 after 9 seasons in the NFL. On January 11, 2023, White lost his battle with cancer at his home in Newport Beach. He was 64. Both San Fernando High and USC had White’s number 12 retired.
There was still a football game to be played, and the night belonged to the Kennedy Golden Cougars as they knocked off the 5-0 Tigers 17-14. Kennedy went into Friday night’s contest with a record of 3-2. The Cougar's defense was the main X-Factor that slowed down the Tigers' high-power offense. Kennedy head coach Troy Cassidy had his team ready and prepared for battle and it showed.
“It feels good to get a win against a Valley Mission League rival," Cassidy said. ''San Fernando has had a great season and they play really tough, especially on the defensive side of the ball and I am so proud of our defense stepping up and getting the win for us”.
Cassidy pointed out that his team needs to cut down on turnovers or it could cost the Cougars some important wins down the road. He said he would be working with his team on this issue at their next practice.
“Need to improve on protecting the ball much better;” Cassidy said. Tonight we had four turnovers, both interceptions and fumbles. We can not have that or it will hurt us down the road.”
The first quarter started off slow. Neither team did much except punt the ball back and forth. The Golden Cougars had two touchdowns called back due to penalties. However, Kennedy got on to the scoreboard first with a field goal at 8:19 in the first quarter taking a 3-0 lead. The Golden Cougars would strike back again when wide receiver Joshua Mondragon got a touchdown pass from Diego Montes with 5:21 remaining on the clock. At that point, the Golden Cougars took a 10-0 at the half.
“It was a great play call from my coach,” Mondragon said. “I made some crossing rounds that confused the safety. I ran a great route and I saw Diego down the field and I realized he was throwing at me. The ball was in the air I was able to catch and run it in from the goal line to make the touchdown”.
Montes said it was not the Golden Cougars' best start but was satisfied with the win despite the mistakes and turnovers that could have cost Kennday the win. He said that these things need to be fixed before playing their next opponent.
“We made a lot of mistakes including myself,” Montes said. “I threw some interceptions and fumbled the ball. It's not how those plays go, it's how you react to it and I think I hung in there pretty well and developed against a very good team.”
Montes gave a lot of credit to his team for the hard work they put in. He said they never gave up. He was impressed by how his team answered back after two interceptions were thrown, especially in the third quarter when the Golden Cougars got the ball back on a San Fernando fumble. However, Montes threw an interception to Tigers' Isaiah Castro who ran it in for a 90-yard touchdown with 10:49 remaining on the clock in the third quarter. The Tigers got a two-point conversion to decrease the lead down to a 10-8 Golden Cougars lead.
The Tigers once again would swing back at Kennedy when Castro got his second interception four minutes later. San Fernando did not capitalize on the turnover, which gave the Golden Cougars another scoring opportunity.
Montes would finally get redemption on the next drive, when he threw a touchdown pass to Joshua Mondragon giving the Golden Cougars a 17-8 lead. The Tigers then answered back when quarterback Adrian Anguiano threw a touchdown pass to Tristen Haro with 1:08 remaining in the quarter. The Tigers failed on their two-point conversion and at that point, the Golden Cougars had the lead at 17-14 going into the fourth quarter.
For the entire fourth quarter, the Golden Cougars' defense silenced the Tiger's offense and kept San Fernando in check. However, the Kennedy offense would fumble the ball again with only 3:37 left on the clock, giving the Tigers another scoring opportunity.
The Golden Cougars went back on defense and once again Kennedy showed how strong their defense really is. San Fernando could not escape from the Golden Cougars defense and were shut down. As a result, Kennedy ran off with a huge win over their cross-town rivals 17-14. The Golden Cougars improved their record to 4-2 with a 2-0 Mission Valley record.
Golden Cougars defensive end James Montes said he was pleased with the way the defense stepped up, especially beating a tough team like San Fernando on the road.
“ As a team we started off well, we did not allow a touchdown and went on strong in the first half;” Montes said. “Yes we made a mistake and there were calls that we did not have but as a defense, we did well;”
Montes was asked how it felt to beat San Fernando and what it meant to them to get that big huge win. He said that he and his team were ready for this moment.
“ It feels really amazing to get (the win),” Montes said. “...we've been waiting all week for this game and he worked our butts off during practice, and it got us the win”.
The Tigers fell to 5-1 and it was not a great night for San Fernando head coach Charles Burnley. He said his guys just did not get the job done when it was needed.
“We just couldn't execute and take advantage of the opportunities that were given to us,” Burnley said. “We had a game plan that we thought would put us in the situation that would get us the W but when you do not have that execution you can not get the win when you don't execute.”
Next week the Cougars have a home game against Canoga Park. Game time is at 7:00 p.m. The Tigers will try to rebound next week on the road against Van Nuys High. Game time is at 7:00 p.m.
*All photos courtesy of VST intern Benjamin Becher