GLENDALE — From Glendale to La Crescenta and across to the San Gabriel Valley, eight high school football coaches from the Pacific League are devising plans to make their respective way to the top of the Pacific League.
At hand for Crescenta Valley, Glendale, Hoover, Muir, Arcadia and Pasadena will be the challenge of knocking off defending co-league champions Burbank and Burroughs. With the nonleague portion of the 10-week schedule complete, those teams will get to work when Pacific League plays begins this week.
There's plenty up for grabs in the eight-team league. The top four teams from the league will advance to the CIF Southern Section Southeast playoffs in mid-November.
Locally, Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover hope to be a part of the postseason. To get there, they must get through the seven consecutive weeks of league competition that should feature plenty of touchdowns, interceptions and sacks.
Let the border battles begin.
The league will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday with Hoover hosting Burroughs at Glendale High's Moyse Field. Crescenta Valley will face Glendale at 7 p.m. Friday at Moyse, while Burbank, the second-ranked team in the division, will travel to Muir and Arcadia will face host Pasadena.
Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart and Chris Long of Hoover agree that all must get through Burbank and Burroughs, who had their peaks and valleys during their nonleague games.
"It's going to be a real tough league because everybody has gotten better," said Schilling, whose team is 2-1. "The teams from Burbank have to be considered the favorites.
"There are just so many variables. We have got to beat teams like Hoover, Glendale and Pasadena and one of the other teams to have a shot at making the playoffs."
Burbank and Burroughs went 2-1 and 0-3, respectively, in their nonleague contests. The Bulldogs and Indians played all of their games on the road because of a proposed renovation of Memorial Field — the home field for both squads — that has been postponed until after the season. Both teams are coming off bye weeks as they had zero-week contests.
Long, who is in his third season with the Tornadoes, agreed with Schilling about the Burbank-area squads still being the teams to beat.
"You know that they are always going to be tough," said Long, whose team is 1-2. "I hope that the league will be wide open and I hope that we have a shot at the playoffs.
"I know that Arcadia is up and down and Pasadena is very young. Muir has been hit by the injury bug and Coach Eberhart is doing a great job over at Glendale in his second year."
Eberhart knows full well about the strengths, weaknesses and trends that have dotted the Pacific League during the past 20-plus seasons. Eberhart previously coached parts of 14 seasons with Crescenta Valley, winning or sharing five league championships between 1993-2006.
Eberhart said the nonleague games may be a good indicator of how well teams have played leading up to league action.
"In our case, it's just a matter of whether we have improved from last year or not," said Eberhart, whose team is 0-3. "Here we are going into league facing a good team in CV.
"I think the Burbank teams will be there in the end. Muir's always going to have those athletic kids. The league has fallen into two halves."
Last season, Burbank gained a share of the league crown by defeating Burroughs in the final game of the regular season. Both teams finished 6-1. Crescenta Valley took third (5-2), followed by Pasadena (4-3) and Muir (4-3), Arcadia (2-5), Hoover (1-6) and Glendale (0-7).
Burbank Coach Hector Valencia and Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said there's plenty of things for their teams to accomplish to stay atop the league for a second season in a row.
"We need to regroup after a tough [nonleague schedule]," Knoop said. "We played three tough teams in Saugus, Canyon and Hart and the guys have their share of bruises, contusions and ankle injuries.
"There are going to be so many factors involved with trying to repeat. Are there going to be key injuries, and then you have grade checks. The teams in our league have all improved in some way. Trying to pick a team at the end is going to be difficult."
While the Bulldogs return many of their key athletes, Valencia said they will have to show vast improvement in league.
"We are going in with the approach that the league will look a lot stronger compared to last year," Valencia said. "You have to go in thinking everybody will be a lot better, even the ones who finished at the bottom, because someone can sneak up on anybody.
"Coach Eberhart is doing a good job getting them to play even harder. Hoover looks to be a little better and Arcadia looks to be real scary. I don't know much about Pasadena because they have a new staff and Muir is all about having the talented athletes. CV looked real good in the summer and can be solid. With Burroughs, it's about them always having the numbers and being our rivals."
Hoover, which had just one league win last season, will look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1987, while Glendale looks to stop a postseason drought that dates back to 2003 and must snap a seven-game league losing streak as it went winless last year. Crescenta Valley, marked by a slew of varsity turnover, hopes to extend its playoff streak to three straight seasons after a pair of consecutive quarterfinal runs.