Locals seeking higher ground

GLENDALE — The threat of rain is predicted in the forecast today.

While it might be a factor when the St. Francis High and Crescenta Valley boys' soccer teams compete in CIF Southern Section playoff quarterfinal matches at 3 p.m. today, the Golden Knights and Falcons will look to leave their respective home fields with sunny dispositions and continued championship aspirations once the final whistles blow.

St. Francis will face San Clemente in a Division I match, and Crescenta Valley will meet second-seeded El Rancho in a Division IV contest.

The Golden Knights (15-9) finished second in the Mission League before starting the playoffs with victories against Thousand Oaks and fourth-seeded Ventura. St. Francis netted a 2-0 road win against Ventura on Wednesday.

"For us, it's about doing two things," St. Francis Coach Glen Appels said. "The first is to play defense well and then take advantage of our [offensive] chances.

"You get those chances in high school soccer. The energy for us is there being in the final eight in the division."

After finishing second in the South Coast League, San Clemente (14-6-6) began its playoff journey with wins against Long Beach Jordan and Palos Verdes. The Tritons netted a 2-1 sudden-death win against Palos Verdes on Wednesday.

"They have a couple of outstanding players and they played in a tough league," said Appels, whose team got a quality effort from goalkeeper Paul Dean to turn back Ventura. "At this point, both teams have played in two tight [playoff] games and we hope to make it an advantage by being at home."

Appels said that sophomore forward Mark Verso might play today after suffering a broken nose against Ventura.

The St. Francis-San Clemente winner will take on top-seeded Edison or St. John Bosco in a semifinal match Tuesday. The other quarterfinal matches in Division I are third-seeded Loyola, which won the Mission League crown, against West Torrance and Santa Barbara versus Junipero Serra.

Crescenta Valley (15-2-5) began its playoff run with a pair of one-goal wins against Diamond Bar and North Torrance. The Falcons, who won the Pacific League championship for the second season in a row, got a goal from Michael Shahnazarians late in the second half to record a 1-0 road win against North Torrance on Wednesday.

Now, the Falcons will face El Rancho, which captured the Del Rio League championship before posting playoff home victories against Serrano and Hawthorne. The Dons (20-2-1) picked up a 1-0 win against Hawthorne on Wednesday.

"El Rancho is a No. 2 seed for a reason, and they have scored a lot of goals and are well-balanced," Crescenta Valley Coach Kiel McClung said. "We have confidence in the way we have been playing and we've had success at home, where we are 9-0-1 this season.

"We are excited about having the opportunity to try to get to the semis. Our guys are prepared. Nothing will come easy because you have to play 80 minutes or maybe even 100 minutes to try to win."

The winner of the Crescenta Valley-El Rancho contest will face third-seeded Cathedral or Ganesha in a semifinal match Tuesday. The other quarterfinals in Division IV today will pit top-seeded Santa Monica against Oak Hills and fourth-seeded Salesian versus Artesia.

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