The talk was that it would be a different Pasadena High School team meeting crosstown rival Muir High School for the second time since Nov. 16. A switch from the I formation to the wishbone had produced upset wins for the Pacific League's third-place entry over Santa Monica and Montebello Schurr in the first two rounds of the Southern Section playoffs.
But, it turns out, that's nothing compared to the adjustment Muir made when star running back Ricky Ervins missed the final two games of the regular season.
The Mustangs, who had relied on the arm of quarterback James Dunn for most of the playoffs, passed themselves into the Coastal Conference championship game with a 28-14 victory over Pasadena before a crowd of about 10,000 Friday night at Glendale High School.
Muir, the top-seeded team in the playoffs, will meet Newhall Hart in the final next Friday. Hart, which started the season as the top-ranked team in the conference, defeated West Torrance in Friday's other semifinal, 22-3.
If there is such a thing as a swarming offense, Muir, which claimed a 27-7 victory when the teams met in the regular-season finale at the Rose Bowl, had it. The Mustangs scored on the first series of the game as Dunn and Cary Grant hooked up for a 20-yard touchdown pass and never let Pasadena get back on its feet.
Dunn struck again on the first play of the Mustangs' first series of the second quarter, hitting John Hardy down the middle for a 51-yard score with 10 minutes to play in the half. It looked as if Pasadena defensive back Ron Stampley had a chance for the interception, but the ball sailed over his head and into Hardy's hands. John Ruiz's second extra point of the game made it 14-0.
Muir (12-1) scored again on its next possession to put Pasadena in a 21-0 hole before halftime, and that's exactly what a grind-it-out team like the Bulldogs didn't need. Grant did the honors again, catching a 16-yard pass from Dunn in the back of the end zone with more tight coverage by Stampley.
At that point, Dunn had completed 12 of 15 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. In the third quarter, with 9:37 remaining, he threw incomplete on fourth down, but defensive tackle Subodai Davis was called for roughing the passer. Three plays later, Grant scored on a four-yard run and the Mustangs had a commanding lead, 28-0.
Pasadena (8-5) came back to make it interesting as running back W.C. Morrison cut the lead to 14 points with a one-yard score, his second touchdown of the game, with 6:27 still remaining. But it seemed as if the better the Bulldogs looked on the scoreboard, the worse they looked on the field.
Morrison and Pasadena scored for the first time, from nine yards out, with 2:19 left in the third quarter. But to get there, the Bulldogs had to call two timeouts within 43 seconds and lost five yards on a delay of game penalty, all because of unorganized substitutions.
On its final possession, Pasadena started with the ball 91 yards away from the goal line and one timeout remaining. The Bulldogs proceeded to call five straight running plays, which put the ball on their own 31 with a third-down play.
After calling their final timeout, Ray Murphy threw a pass which went incomplete. Then, on fourth and five, the Mustangs ran the ball again and Morrison was stopped for a two-yard gain.