As soon as the CIF Southern Section released the boys' soccer playoff pairings Monday, La Cañada coach Bruno Costa got to work gathering information on his team's opponent.
The coach was pleased that his team will not have to travel far to take on El Monte at 5 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High in a Division V first-round contest. However, upon more research, Costa discovered his Spartans will face a tough opponent.
"This is an advantage in terms of logistics and the fact that we don't have to travel for a long trip," Costa said. "But on the other hand, we're going to be playing against a champion of a pretty good league.
"I think it's going to be a very hard test for us in the very first round."
Costa said he is intent on having his team as prepared as it can be for the playoffs.
"I am doing my homework and I'm gathering some information from other coaches who play in their league," Costa said. "I know in that league it's very competitive and they like to play a very physical style. So we have to be prepared."
La Cañada (11-3-5) placed second in the Rio Hondo League behind champion Monrovia. El Monte (14-5-4) won the Mission Valley League.
"We lost our last league game and that cost us the league championship," Costa said. "I think that served as a wake-up call for us and the boys are going to be ready and motivated for the playoffs.
"We are going to have a full week of training."
If the Spartans win their first-round match Friday, they would face Amino Leadership (14-7-2, Mulholland League champion) or Crossroads (13-2-3; No. 2 Gold Coast League) in the second round Feb. 21.
After competing in Division I in the past, St. Francis will take a shot at Division II this season. The Golden Knights have been a playoff staple the last 30 seasons, winning three CIF titles and one Southern California Regional crown.
St. Francis (12-9-2) finished fourth in the Mission League and will travel to face Sunny Hills in a first-round match Friday at a time to be determined. Sunny Hills (16-4-5) captured the Freeway League championship.
The winner will face Hueneme (10-3-3, Pacific View League champion) or Santa Maria (17-4-3, No. 2 Los Padres League) in a second-round contest on Feb. 21.
Despite winning a Prep League title, Flintridge Prep was left on the outside looking in to the playoffs.
With a three-way tie for first in the four-team league, which only bestows two automatic playoff berths, between Chadwick, Firebaugh and Prep at 3-2-1, Chadwick won a tiebreaker via coin flip. The Rebels (9-7-1) then lost a play-in match on Thursday against Firebaugh, 1-0.
"We were hoping there would be some at-large spots available in the division, but there just weren't any," Flintridge Prep coach Esteban Chavez said. "We still had a good season in winning league."