GLENDALE — Only one matchup on the Flintridge Prep football team's 2010 nine-game schedule is different from its 2009 slate, a second-week meeting with Grace Brethren, which replaced Villanova Prep.
First-year Prep Coach Antonio Harrison's comments on the change shed light both on where the Rebels have come from and where they hope to go.
"The contract was up and Villanova Prep wanted to look for another team — from our season last year, I don't blame them very much," said Harrison, who was on the Rebels' sideline as an assistant last season, in which the team went 3-6 with a 20-6 loss to Villanova Prep in the second week. "I will say that they might be lucky in moving away from us because we're going to be a different ball club."
The Lancers will host Prep at Moorpark College at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 after opening the campaign at St. Genevieve at 7 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 11. Seven of Flintridge Prep's games will be Friday games, however, a bit of a change from seasons past.
From there, the Rebels travel to Campbell Hall for a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sept. 24 before wrapping up the nonleague portion of the schedule in their home opener against Malibu at Occidental College at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1. It's one of just three home games on the schedule for the Rebels, all of them at Occidental College.
Last season, the Rebels didn't get their first win until the fourth week, when they beat Malibu, 23-20, following lopsided losses against St. Genevieve, Villanova Prep and Campbell Hall.
"I definitely think [our nonleague schedule] will be a big determinant of what's gonna happen to us this year," Harrison said. "It will definitely let us know where we are before we hit league in terms of how much progress we've made from last year."
Following a bye week on Oct. 8, Prep League play will begin much how it ended last year — in a rematch with Chadwick, this time at home at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15.
The host Dolphins defeated the Rebels, 35-15, in the last game of the 2009 season to drop Prep to 2-3 in league and keep it from the CIF playoffs for the first time since 2006. The sting of that defeat, plus a perceived lack of respect from Chadwick, which drew delay-of-game penalties late in the contest so that its kicker could attempt a personal-long field goal and staged a postgame celebration that struck Harrison as entirely too prearranged and left a bad taste in the Rebels' mouth.
"Just the way the whole thing unfolded, nobody liked it, I definitely didn't like it, and I think the Chadwick coach knows that," Harrison said. "So, the rivalry [has gotten bigger] in terms of getting the [Gold Cup] trophy back, but [Pasadena] Poly will always be our traditional rival."
The frontloaded league schedule continues with a home game against reigning league champion Rio Hondo Prep in the only other Saturday game on the schedule at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23, followed by a 7 p.m. Oct. 29 game at the archrival Panthers, meaning the Rebels will begin league with a gauntlet of games against the league's three playoff qualifiers from last season.
If the Rebels can emerge from that trial by fire in good shape, they will have an ostensibly easier road to clinching a playoff berth if the race comes down to the final weeks, as it has in years prior, when they face Viewpoint at 3 p.m. on Nov. 5 and Webb at 2 p.m. on Nov. 12 to close out the campaign on the road.
League will come down to a test of how much the Rebels have improved, as wins over the Valiants and Gauls were not enough to offset losses to the other three teams in the standings last year.
"I definitely think Poly, Rio and Chadwick are the teams we're gonna have to beat to compete for a league title," Harrison said. "I don't think it was done on purpose to put [Chadwick, Rio Hondo and Poly] in that order, but I'm appreciative of that order. It's not to knock Viewpoint or Webb because both of them did a great job in starting to turn around their program from what it's been in past years, but [Chadwick, Rio Hondo and Poly] are the top three teams in league and it's been proven in the standings for the last couple years.
"If we want to be the best, we need to compete with the best right off the bat," Harrison said. "I'm expecting our nonleague play to set us up to go right into league play and compete. If we can pull out victories in our first three [league games] it will be a nice way to keep them rolling into the playoffs."
• Sept. 11 at St. Genevieve, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 17 at Grace Brethren, 7:30 p.m.
• Sept. 24 at Campbell Hall, 2:30 p.m.
• Oct. 1 vs. Malibu, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 15 vs. Chadwick, 7 p.m.*
• Oct. 23 vs. Rio Hondo Prep, 7 p.m.*
• Oct. 29 at Pasadena Poly, 7 p.m.*
• Nov. 5 at Viewpoint, 3 p.m.*
• Nov. 12 at Webb, 2 p.m.*
*denotes Prep League game
All home games are currently scheduled for Occidental College.