A disappointing defeat marked the end of the regular season for the St. Francis High football team.
However, when the CIF Southern Section released playoff pairings on Sunday morning, it's safe to say hope was restored and prospects were reinvigorated.
St. Francis will host La Serna on Friday night at 7 at Friedman Field, playing the Lancers for the second time this season, the fifth time over the last four seasons and the third time over the last five years in the playoffs.
St. Francis (9-1), following an Angelus League second-place finish, will host old foe La Serna (6-4), which took second in the Del Rio League.
Perhaps the biggest quandary for the Golden Knights will be moving past their 28-16 loss to Cathedral on Friday in their league finale and not looking beyond the first round as they own a 49-20 win over La Serna in nonleague play on Sept. 15.
"I was surprised. I put a few brackets together on my own and never had us playing La Serna," said St. Francis coach Jim Bonds, whose team took second in league last season and was the No. 4 seed but went on the road in the first round, where it lost to Palos Verdes, 38-37. "We're happy to have a home game and we have a familiar foe. We've played them four years in a row and this will be the fifth time in four years.
"If we don't show up or are overconfident, we'll be handing in our gear the next week and nobody wants to do that. I think [the players will] get the message."
St. Francis has gone 2-2 over four seasons' of matchups with La Serna, having won the last two. However, those last two were nonleague matchups, whereas the Lancers' first two victories were in the playoffs. And the playoffs are a brand new ballgame.
"There's no cupcakes in the first round of the playoffs anymore," Bonds said. "I'm sure this will be a different La Serna team."
La Serna, long regarded for its trademark wing-T offense, is keyed by running backs Fonzie Ibanez and Daniel Garcia. The Lancers have won four consecutive games, all of them by at least 21 points, following a three-game losing streak that included the defeat to St. Francis.
The Golden Knights' offense is propelled by quarterback Darius Perrantes, running backs Elijah Washington and Kevin Armstead and receiver Greg Dulcich. But that dynamic offense was held to a season-low point total against Cathedral and must bounce back against the Lancers.
"I know they took it really hard on Friday night, but there's a resiliency in 17-, 16-, 18-year-old kids," Bonds said. "I know they'll be able to move on."
And if St. Francis does move on past La Serna, it would face No. 2 seed Citrus Hill (9-1) or Newbury Park (5-5) in the quarterfinals.