Change is abundant throughout the St. Francis High 2018 football schedule.
Five of the Golden Knights’ 10 opponents are different from the previous season.
One holdover — Harvard-Westlake — is now a nonleague opponent.
One new opponent — Crespi — is an Angelus League foe.
The latter is part of a new four-team Angelus League as St. Francis will no longer have Harvard-Westlake, La Salle or St. Paul as league opponents.
“It is a lot of crazy,” said Golden Knights coach Jim Bonds of the 2018 slate. “We have some tough games. It’s going to be a challenge.”
So, as St. Francis is coming off a phenomenally successful campaign in which it went 12-2, 4-1 in the Angelus League for second place and marched to the CIF Southern Section Division III title game, it will need to take a vastly different road to reclaim last year’s success. Not to mention, it will be vying for a spot in the Division II playoffs, as well, as it was bumped up per CIF realignment.
Though there are plenty of changes from last year, there will be little from week to week as the Golden Knights play from week one through week 10 with no zero week, no bye week, with all their games on Fridays and all games starting at 7 p.m.
With the league’s revamping as per the Catholic Athletic Assn.’s four-year cycle along with St. Francis having just two teams entering their second year of a nonleague contract, Bonds was faced with filling five slots in the schedule.
As is the new normal with the CIF Southern Section moving its athletic calendar up, St. Francis will have two football games in August, beginning with the season kickoff on week one on the road against Mira Costa.
St. Francis began its 2017 season with a 48-21 win over Mira Costa, which went 6-7 and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinals. Bonds’ Knights are a young squad whereas the Mustangs appear to have plenty of players returning.
“We really don’t want to overlook these guys going down to Manhattan Beach,” Bonds said.
The Golden Knights’ home opener will come on Aug. 31 against Damien (7-5, advanced to second round of Division IV playoffs last season), which replaces Pasadena on the schedule.
“That’s gonna be a tough game,” Bonds said. “I’m glad it’s at home.”
Another new foe, Westlake (9-3, advanced to second round of Division III playoffs), will host St. Francis on Sept. 7. Westlake’s addition to the slate replaces La Serna, which had become a rival for St. Francis in the regular season and postseason as of late. Westlake appears to be returning to the program it once was, which was one of the most highly regarded in Southern California.
“Historically, there’s good players out there,” Bonds said.
Pedigree and competition aside, the matchup really came down to availability.
“It just came down to what’s available,” Bonds said. “You kind of feel pressure when the clock’s ticking and it’s January and you don’t have a full schedule.”
Saugus (6-7, Division VI semifinalist) will travel to Friedman Field for week four on Sept. 14. St. Francis prevailed, 49-20, in last season’s matchup.
“[Coach] Jason [Bornn] does a great job,” Bonds said. “Especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
Familiar foe Harvard-Westlake (8-3, lost in Division V first round), a longtime Mission League and then Angelus League opponent, will host the Golden Knights on Sept. 21 in a nonleague affair. In an Angelus League game last season, St. Francis crushed the Wolverines, 77-27. Now, Harvard-Westlake is part of the Del Rey League with La Salle, St. Paul, St. Anthony and St. Genevieve.
In week six on Sept. 28, as opposed to opening league as in past seasons, St. Francis’ nonleague slate will continue with a road trip to play Mayfair (11-2, Division IX semifinalist) at La Mirada High. Mayfair is coached by St. Francis alum Derek Bedell.
“He’s done a really good job there,” Bonds said of Bedell, “and he said he’d love to play St. Francis.
“They’re a talented team and going to give us all we can handle.”
In week seven, St. Francis is likely to tackle its most difficult opponent when it hosts Paraclete on Oct. 5.
The Spirits, coached by Bonds’ longtime friend Dean Herrington, posted a 13-2 record last season that included winning a Division V championship over Moorpark.
“There was a time I would’ve said I don’t want to play my friends and Dean Herrington’s one of my good friends,” Bonds said. “But, it’s like, ‘Hey, we both need games, so let’s do it.’
“It’ll be a great test; definitely gets us ready for league and playoffs.”
Finally on Oct. 12, St. Francis will begin its new-look Angelus League campaign when it hosts Salesian (1-9).
The Golden Knights pummeled Salesian, 69-0, a season ago.
Another St. Francis alum, Ariel Bellofiore, is coaching Salesian as the program continues to rebuild.
As has become the case over the last half-decade or so, the Angelus League showdown that is most anticipated has been St. Francis versus Cathedral. Cathedral will have a new coach, but nonetheless the game is likely to be important when the teams square off on Oct. 19 with the Phantoms hosting. Cathedral won the league title last season and the head-to-head matchup, 28-16. However, Cathedral has lost its coach and reportedly had many players transfer out.
“They’ve gone through a lot of changes,” Bonds said. “We’ll know more early in the season.
“I still think that’s gonna be our toughest league game.”
And then St. Francis will conclude its season against Angelus League newcomer Crespi on Oct. 26 at Friedman Field. The teams haven’t met since 2008 when Crespi won, 34-0, as part of a nonleague Mission League-Serra League exchange when both leagues had just four teams. Last season, Crespi went 1-11, somehow getting into the Division III playoffs where it lost to Charter Oak in the first round.
“Like Cathedral, we kind of have to wait and see,” Bonds said. “I don’t think it’s gonna be a walk in the park. This could be a very big game.”
2018 Golden Knights Schedule
At Mira Costa, 7 p.m. Aug. 24
Vs. Damien, 7 p.m. Aug. 31
At Westlake, 7 p.m. Sept. 7
Vs. Saugus, 7 p.m. Sept. 14
At Harvard-Westlake, 7 p.m. Sept. 21
At Mayfair, 7 p.m. Sept. 28
Vs. Paraclete, 7 p.m. Oct. 5
Vs. Salesian, 7 p.m. Oct. 12
At Cathedral, 7 p.m. Oct. 19