After landing a crushing blow in one of its more intense Prep League rivalries on Saturday, the Flintridge Prep football team will take some momentum into the granddaddy of them all.
The Rebels, coming off a 54-19 home dismantling of Chadwick last week, face off with host Pasadena Poly at 2 p.m. Saturday. And, as if a game with the Rebels' most intense adversary needed any further incentive, Prep will have an opportunity to open league 2-0 with the inside track to a playoff berth going into next week's meeting with league champion Rio Hondo Prep.
"Our boys have worked hard and I think they kind of turned the corner last week in terms of understanding what it means to really put a team away," said Prep Coach Antonio Harrison, whose team improved to 3-3. "They're all pumped up still from Saturday and Poly's a big game for us."
Poly enters at 4-1, ranked eighth in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, but is yet to play a league game, as it is coming off a bye week.
"It's our first league game, so we're anxious to get going in league," Panthers Coach Brendan McGrail said. "We got a chance to see all the four other teams in league play last week, and certainly Flintridge Prep had a very impressive victory and they're riding a lot of momentum coming off of that."
Tops on the Panthers' list will no doubt be slowing the pace of Prep's standout senior tailback Stefan Smith, who scored four total touchdowns against Chadwick — his fourth straight week with multiple touchdowns and third straight with at least three — to bring his season total to 14.
"There's a lot to worry about," McGrail said. "I would say the running game is the place it starts with them and Stefan Smith there is very talented and coming off a four-touchdown game. Not only is he talented by himself, but they run a good scheme and he has good blocking in front."
Poly relies heavily on the run itself and has prospered behind the efforts of senior Jake Zelek and sophomore Griffin Carter. The Panthers are on the younger side with nine sophomores on varsity.
"We're going to key on everything that they do with their tendencies, we're going to make sure the boys stay home and play it safe, but play aggressive," said Harrison, whose team was defeated, 20-0, by Poly last season. "We're going to keep on our game plan of stopping the run, forcing pass and also trying to stop pass with pressure."
The Rebels have one common opponent this season in Malibu, which lost to Poly, 22-19, on Sept. 15 before defeating Prep, 40-34, on Sept. 21. But Poly's last game was a 50-49 Oct. 5 loss to Bellarmine-Jefferson, which was clobbered by Malibu last week.
"Poly is always fundamentally sound, they always have great athletes and their coaching's stellar," Harrison said. "But the thing about Poly is no matter what's going on in their season, they get up to play us, the same way we get up to play them.
"They have a pretty young team, but they have a talented team, so I expect a pretty hard-fought battle."
St. Francis at Harvard Westlake (7 p.m. Friday): The Golden Knights will be desperate to rid themselves of the bitter memories that have accumulated over the past two weeks when Friday night football kicks off. They'll have to do so against another formidable opponent in the Wolverines, who are ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division.
A two-game losing streak — with both coming in heartbreaking fashion — has dropped St. Francis to 3-3, 0-1 in the Mission League this year. The Knights are two turnovers away from being 5-1 after a fumble at the goalline led to a home loss to Monrovia (17-13) Sept. 28 and a late interception sealed a league-opening loss to Cathedral (42-40) last week.
While the late interception may stick out, St. Francis quarterback Jared Lebowitz had another stellar performance against Cathedral, completing 28 of 51 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Tommy Scheper (10 receptions for 175 yards and a score) and Evan Crawford (six catches for 86 yards and three touchdowns) were his two favorite targets.
For the season Lebowitz is 102 for 179 with 1,530 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 104. Harvard-Westlake has its own standout quarterback in senior Chad Kanoff. He's completed 62 percent of his passes (109 for 175) for 1,981 yards, 26 scores and just two picks.
St. Francis overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit for a 23-20 victory over Harvard-Westlake at home last year with Knights kicker Billy McCreary converting a 37-yard field goal with two seconds left to deliver the win.
The Wolverines are 5-1, riding a five-game winning streak after dropping their season opener at Loyola, 42-27. Harvard-Westlake has scored more than 40 points in each of its wins this season, and also seems to sport a formidable defense — holding its opponents to an average of 10.40 points in those games.
St. Francis running back Daniel Kawamura (453 yards, three touchdowns on 73 carries) could be in for a big game for the Golden Knights, though, as the Wolverines have given up big games on the ground on a few occasions this year.
Loyola's Wyatt Bradford ran for 215 yards on 22 carries against Harvard-Westlake, which saw St. Paul's Kurt Scoby accumulate 337 rushing yards on 32 carries last week.
Crescenta Valley at Burbank (7 p.m. Friday) at Memorial Field: On Tuesday, Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling remarked that his team may have underestimated Burroughs going into its 20-14 Pacific League loss to the Indians on Friday night.
Unlike Burroughs, which came in with a losing record and at .500 in league, Burbank hasn't given the Falcons any reason to take it lightly.
Entering the week on the cusp of the Southeast Division top-10 rankings at 4-2, the Bulldogs are 3-0 in league and on a collision course with the only other league unbeaten, Muir, for next week should Burbank get past the Falcons and the Mustangs beat Burroughs this week.
Crescenta Valley, on the other hand, is fighting just to stay in the playoff hunt, as a loss would drop the Falcons (3-3) to 1-3 in league and probably force them to have to win out just to get back in the top four automatic-berth range.
"It's a tough matchup for us because they're very, very physical," Schilling said. "When you watch them on film, they crack [block] all the time. When their wide receivers crack your outside backers they are vicious.
"They're a very physical, nasty team and we hope that we can deliver. We have a great defensive plan. We're going to have a guy right where they want to put the ball every time, but we've got step up and tackle both of their two big backs."
Those would be sophomore
Crescenta Valley counters with a running game led by William Wang. Joe Torres looks to have secured the starting quarterback job for now after starting against Burroughs and leading a swift touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and will look for targets Jack Lutynski and Conner Van Ginkel.
Hoover vs. Pasadena (7 p.m. Friday) at Moyse Field: The Tornadoes return from a grueling two weeks on the road to host a Bulldogs squad that has also dropped two straight in the Pacific League.
Hoover's struggles have been especially pronounced, as it has been outscored, 112-6, in losses to Muir and defending league champ Arcadia.
"We kind of have the type of team where if things don't go well early on, it gets away from us," said Hoover Coach Andrew Policky, whose team (2-4, 0-3) has dropped four straight overall after opening the season 2-0.
Pasadena (1-5, 1-2) has lost to Crescenta Valley and Burbank its last two times out and is likely to still be without standout quarterback Brandon Cox, who has been sidelined since Sept. 7 with a broken foot.
Or so the Tornadoes would hope, anyway. Caleb Devine hasn't been able to replace the production of Cox, although he did rush for 61 yards and account for the team's only touchdown against Burbank. In that game, Burbank was able to chew up more than 250 yards of rushing yardage and the Tornadoes may look to follow the same path to success behind Jesse Pina, who leads the team with 29 yards and five touchdowns.
"They've got probably the best player in the league in their quarterback," Policky said "He's been out for a considerable amount of time, but he's supposed to come back I've heard."
Glendale at Arcadia (7 p.m. Friday): The Nitros (1-5) are in much the same boat as the rival Tornadoes right now — still seeking their first Pacific League win and struggling to score points week in and week out.
Currently riding a four-game skid and sitting at 0-3 in league, where they've scored only one touchdown (against Burroughs) and been shut out by Pasadena and Muir, Glendale now turns its focus to an Apaches squad that has won two of its last three after a rough start to improve to 2-4 and 2-1 in league.
"They seem like they keep getting better each week," Nitros Coach John Tuttle said of the Apaches, "so we will have our hands full with them."
With standouts like Taylor Lagace and Myles Carr graduated and transitioning under a new coach in former Hoover head