GLENDALE — The euphoria of crushing Harvard-Westlake in Friday night's regular-season finale to lock up qualification for the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs didn't have long to settle in before the St. Francis High football team got the sobering news of its first-round playoff draw when the CIF offices released divisional playoff pairings on Sunday.
The Golden Knights (6-4), who finished third in the Mission League, will open the postseason at 7 p.m. Friday in Compton against second-seeded Dominguez (9-1), the champion of the San Gabriel Valley League.
"Doing our own draw sheets and trying to figure things out on Friday and Saturday, we knew it was a good possibility that we would get Dominguez," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. "We were hoping not to because they're 9-1 and the No. 2 seed, but we're happy to be in the playoffs and have a chance to move on.
"We're going to think positive and put a good plan together and try to go out and execute it on Friday night."
St. Francis enters the playoffs as one of four at-large teams in the division, despite the position it finished in its six-team league. This is a result of CIF adding a sixth league to the division prior to the 2010 season and after it had expanded some existing leagues, including the Mission League's jump from a four-team body. Instead of three automatic berths for the top three teams in each league, only the top two got in automatically, with the remaining teams contending for at-large berths.
"At the end of the day, [CIF]'s got to put the four seeds up against the at-large teams or, in their opinion, what [teams give] the best chances for those seeds to move on," Bonds said. "They picked us and we've got to take it like men and go down there and play them."
Should St. Francis advance past Friday, it would face either Pacific View champion Rio Mesa or Pac-7 at-large squad Arroyo Grande on Nov. 26. League mate Chaminade, the No. 4 seed, is in St. Francis' half of the bracket, while Mission League champion Garden Serra, the No. 1 seed, is in the opposite side.
By Friday night, St. Francis, which was ranked as high as fourth in the division this season, will have faced all four Western Division seeds. The first three matchups did not go well for the Golden Knights, who lost to Serra, and Chaminade, as well as third-seeded Paso Robles.