Each year, Antonio Harrison likes to schedule a game that requires an overnight stay for the Flintridge Prep football team. The Rebels coach may have outdone himself this year.
Harrison's squad will play seven road games — with one listed as a home game — this coming season. When Flintridge Prep devised its 2012 schedule, it signed one-year contracts, instead of the usual multi-year deals, which has led to a drastically different nonleague schedule for 2013.
"When we went through our struggles a couple years ago, we didn't want to lock teams into two years because we weren't sure what was going to happen with the football program, honestly," said Harrison — referring to the Rebels 1-9 season that was marred by two forfeits when a thin roster was decimated by injures in 2011.
Prep had to scramble a bit to find teams this year and, in order to lock teams in, had to agree to play road games a majority of the time.
Flintridge Prep opens the season with Army-Navy of Carlsbad for the second year in a row at Occidental College at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30, with a chance to avenge a 32-30 overtime loss a season ago.
After that, the Rebels won't return home for five weeks.
"I always want to have at least one long-distance travel game where we stay overnight; the other ones just happened to work out," Harrison said. "We were trying to claw around to get those teams booked. They wanted to play at their place and we had to oblige. I want to have half home and half away games, but it all works out, because the hardest place to win is on the road. It's going to be a huge character builder for us."
In that span, they will travel roughly 965 miles with more than half of that mileage coming in a 546-mile round trip for a 7 p.m. game with Meadows High of Las Vegas in week two on Sept. 7.
"I don't think they've ever traveled out of state, I have never heard of it," said Harrison, who also graduated from Flintridge Prep, of the football program. "The furthest we used to go was either Mammoth, Desert Christian or Ontario Christian."
After a week off, Prep heads out to Boron on Sept. 20 and Frazier Mountain a week later, 237- and 135-mile round trips, respectively, for both 7 p.m. contests.
While the Rebels will technically play host to Heritage Christian — its other nonleague foe from a year ago — it'll do so at Granada Hills at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5. It's nearly a 24-mile drive for Prep and an even three for Heritage Christian, which had the home game in 2012 and went on to pick up a narrow win, 19-16.
"That was just a scheduling snafu," Harrison said. "Something got mixed up and [Heritage Christian] thought it was home for them again. The [athletic directors] worked it out."
While Harrison always loves taking his team on long trips because of the camaraderie it builds, he's well aware the four-game road stretch his team will take could be grueling.
"That's something I am very conscious of, we are trying to make sure we give them enough time when we head up there that they're prepared," he said. "It's football, though, they have to go through some trials and tribulations. It's just part of the game."
Ultimately, the Rebels leader thinks the nonleague schedule will be a good challenge for his team. Not only is it harder to win on the road, but Prep will face some formidable opponents away from its friendly confines. Army-Navy and Boron both enjoyed 10-win seasons in 2012, while Frazier Mountain (6-5) and Heritage Christian (4-6) were right around .500. Meadows went 3-6 in 2012.
Flintridge Prep will return home Oct. 11 for its Prep League opener with rival Pasadena Poly at Occidental College at 7 p.m. It will then travel to Rio Hondo Prep a week later for a 7:30 p.m. clash before playing Webb at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at La Cañada High.
"We play our tougher games right off the bat in league, that's why we have a tougher preseason schedule," Harrison said. "I am not a fan of playing anybody easy for a false sense of confidence in preseason."
The Rebels defeated Poly in a wild game, 46-33, last year and then fell to eventual league champion Rio Hondo, 48-12, after keeping close in the first quarter. A dominant force in the Prep League and CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, Rio Hondo Prep should be favored to win league again in 2013.
"For us, the psychological factor is starting to diminish because we played them for a league championship last year, so we know we belong in that game," Harrison said. "We just have to make sure we stay in it for all four quarters."
With a bye in week nine, the Rebels have scheduled a nonleague affair with Hawkins of Los Angeles when they will also be the travel team for a 7 p.m. tilt Nov. 1.
Fittingly, Prep concludes its regular season on the road at Chadwick, which will likely be determined to avenge an embarrassing 54-19 loss to the Rebels at 3 p.m. on Nov. 8.
Hopes for Harrison and the Rebels are that there will be plenty of games to play after.
"With all those contracts up for grabs, we wanted to take a look at some really good competition that we could face in playoffs," Harrison said. "That's going to be our goal from here on out, to make the playoffs. We want to see those caliber teams early on."