In terms of its beginning and end, the Flintridge Prep football team's 2011 schedule contains a few departures from the previous one, including a new opponent to kick things off and a topsy-turvy order to the Prep League gauntlet.
Second-year Rebels Coach Antonio Harrison hopes those won't be the only differences, as he wishes to avoid an opening in any way similar to last year's 0-6-1 start and ultimately looks to end the regular season with a playoff berth in hand after the team missed the postseason for the second year in a row after going 2-6-1.
"Once the season's over, the schedule's going to determine playoffs," Harrison said. "That's our main goal, to make playoffs this year."
The only different opponent the Rebels will play this year is zero week host Bellarmine-Jefferson at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 at North Hollywood High, a significant add because it also expands Prep's schedule to 10 games from the nine that had become the standard.
"I would prefer to throw in a 10th game," Harrison said of what will be the first installment of a two-year arrangement with the Santa Fe League Guards, who are coming off a 2-8 campaign. "Something about having nine games in a season just didn't sit well with me.
"I know it will be toward our overall record, but I would rather have them play a real game than to have another scrimmage that was similar to passing league with pads."
After the opener, the nonleague schedule unfolds in identical fashion to last year, with a reversal of host sites the only shake-up in Friday night meetings with St. Genevieve (7 p.m., Sept. 9), Grace Brethren (7 p.m., Sept. 16) and Campbell Hall (1 p.m., Sept. 24) — all at the Rebels' home field at Occidental College — and Malibu at Malibu at 1 p.m. on Oct. 1 for the first of three consecutive Saturday games.
The Rebels went a disappointing 0-3-1 against those four squads last year, but Harrison said that having another year to implement his coaching system should make the return meetings in nonleague more competitive.
"All of them are going into the [the second year of] their two-year [contracts], so hopefully we can put a 'W' on our side to split it down the middle," Harrison said. "That way they will want to continue their two-year contracts with us after this season.
"It definitely helps, as far as our scouting and preparation, in facing them. We've seen them before, so we'll know what their typical responses are in a game. However, I do feel it's going to be little more level playing field for all the teams. A lot of us lost a lot of seniors."
On Oct. 7, the Rebels will return to Occidental to open Prep League play at 7 p.m. against Webb, one of two teams, along with Viewpoint, against which Prep closed out the 2010 season with consecutive wins.
Following a bye week, Prep will then host Viewpoint at 7 p.m. on Oct. 22 at La Cañada High for its homecoming game, as the league schedule plays out in near-exact reverse order from last season, leaving heavy hitters Pasadena Poly, Chadwick and league-champion Rio Hondo Prep for last.
"It doesn't matter to me who we play or when we play them," Harrison said.
The final stretch of the schedule, consisting of three Friday games, begins at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Rio Hondo and continues with a renewal of the arch rivalry with Pasadena Poly at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at Occidental.
The Rebels fared poorly in last year's meetings with the Kares and Panthers, being outscored, 82-7, over the two games.
"[Those games] mean a lot," Harrison said. "I actually had someone tell me that Poly doesn't even consider us rivals any more, that everybody considers Rio Hondo a rival now because they are the ones who are always winning.
"We definitely want to change that, but every game for us is going to be just the same as the next one. We're taking every team seriously, we're going to go after everybody and we're going to play our game, regardless of who the opponent is."
The regular season will conclude Nov. 11 with a 2 p.m. matinee at Chadwick, which has developed a healthy rivalry of its own with the Rebels in recent years and shocked Prep by reeling off 20 unanswered points in the final 15-plus minutes for a 33-19 win in last season's league opener.
"If we can build the momentum [over the course of the league season] the way we expect to, I expect that to be a hard-fought game," Harrison said, "especially if it boils down to whether or not the winner's going to make playoffs."
Sept. 2 at Bell-Jeff, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. St. Genevieve, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Grace Brethren, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. Campbell Hall, 1 p.m.
Oct. 1 at Malibu, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Webb, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 22 vs. Viewpoint, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 28 at Rio Hondo Prep, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 4 vs Pasadena Poly, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 11 at Chadwick, 2 p.m.*
*denotes Prep League game
All home games at Occidental College except Oct. 22 at La Cañada High