For most of the first half of the season, the St. Francis High football team found itself in its share of close nonleague games. St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds doesn’t expect anything to change when the Golden Knights kick off Mission League at 7 p.m. Friday against host Cathedral.
“In the Mission League, week in and week out, you are expecting a dog fight,” said Bonds, whose team is 3-2 and ranked No. 8 in the latest CIF Southern Section Western Division poll. “More so now at this stage of the season.
“You can’t afford to look past anybody in our league. No matter who you are facing, it’s going to take a lot of focus and preparation. We are up for it.”
St. Francis has seen its last four games decided by eight points or less, including a 17-13 nonleague home loss against Monrovia on Friday. The Golden Knights appeared poised for a last-minute victory against Monrovia, but turned the ball over on a fumble inside the Monrovia one-yard line.
Bonds said the Golden Knights have since put the defeat behind them and have begun their preparations for a Cathedral squad that 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Western Division.
Cathedral will turn to senior quarterback Hayden Rettig, who saw his season end early last year after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus against Pasadena. The Louisiana State University-bound Rettig has thrown 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season, something Bonds, a former quarterback at UCLA, has made mention of to his players.
“He’s big and strong and can make the throws,” Bonds said. “We are going to have to be disciplined defensively.
“They are putting up lots of points and it’s going to be a huge challenge to slow them down.”
Cathedral is averaging 46.6 points per game this season. The Phantoms had a bye last week after registering a 53-14 nonleague win against Cantwell-Sacred Heart on Sept. 21.
Cathedral Coach Kevin Pearson said he's expecting a close game.
“St. Francis is well-coached and they don't make many mistakes,” Pearson said. “I think the league is extremely strong.
“With a game like this, it could come down to special teams being important. Hayden has been throwing the ball better. He's got that quick release and the ball comes out of his hand nicely.”
St. Francis quarterback Jared Lebowitz completed 16 of 27 passes for 174 yards against Monrovia. Running back Daniel Kawamura had 70 yards rushing in 21 carries and scored a touchdown.
“Lebowitz is a good quarterback, and he makes their team go,” Pearson said.
On the final week of last season, St. Francis recorded a 54-8 home win against Cathedral. The Golden Knights are 2-0 against the Phantoms since Cathedral joined the Mission League in 2010.
Chadwick vs. Flintridge Prep at La Cañada 7 p.m. Saturday: For the first time this season, the Rebels will look to put together a winning streak when they open Prep League play with the Dolphins Saturday.
Flintridge Prep didn’t have much success against Chadwick last year in a 46-7 loss in the regular season finale. All signs point to the Rebels having much more success this time around.
Prep has fared well against teams with low numbers this year. It defeated Villanova Prep (48-6) and Sage Hill (48-8), which have 27 and 32 players, respectively. The Dolphins carry 26, according to maxpreps.com, and are coming off a one-point loss to Rosamond, 27-26, on Friday.
The Rebels could also easily be undefeated, as their three losses have been by a total of 11 points. Chadwick (3-2) and Flintridge Prep (2-3) have also had a common opponent in Malibu this year. The Sharks defeated the Dolphins, 32-29, on Sept. 7 and knocked off the Rebels, 40-34, on Sept. 21.
Flintridge Prep should also be well rested and bring plenty of confidence into the game after an explosive running attack and stout defense helped the Rebels knock off the Lightning last Saturday. Prep earned a running clock in the third quarter and sat its starters in the fourth quarter.
Stefan Smith has been Flintridge Prep’s most dangerous player this year. He ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries against Sage Hill. Kurt Kozacik had 88 rushing yards in 11 attempts in the game.
Defensively, the Rebels forced six Sage Hill turnovers in the win with middle linebacker Chad Cosse also forcing a fumble and Smith and Kozacik adding interceptions.
San Marino at La Cañada 7 p.m. Friday: The Spartans have been given a tall task if they hope to snap their four-game losing streak in their Rio Hondo League opener. San Marino enjoyed a perfect 5-0 in nonleague run.
The Spartans haven't been close to a win since they defeated Alhambra (17-7) in their season opener. Since then, they've been defeated by Glendale (21-3), Crescenta Valley (48-21), Eagle Rock (48-21) and Arroyo (45-7). Arroyo – ranked ninth in CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division – was the only ranked team the Spartans have played so far this season, but this week they host the Mid-Valley fifth-ranked Titans.
Defense is where the Titans have really impressed this year. They're giving up an average of 8.4 points a game and have posted two shutouts this season. That's bad news for a La Cañada squad that's been struggling offensively.
Last Friday was the second week in a row La Cañada's junior quarterback Robbie Fuelling has been called on to replace senior starter Matt Jones. It also made consecutive weeks the Spartans have been held to just one touchdown with senior running back Andy Paynter, who ran for a 59-yard score at Arroyo, accounting for both.
San Marino is no slouch offensively with a potent run attack led by quarterback Matt Wofford, running back Ryan Wood and fullback Nick Gott. The Titans can also go to the air with Wofford, who ran for 109 yards and a score on 15 carries and completed 11 of 15 passes for 145 yards, a score and interception in a 31-21 win over South El Monte last Friday.