The following are previews of the area's upcoming high school football games this week.
Muir High may not be Crescenta Valley's main football rival — that distinction remains reserved for Arcadia — but the annual Pacific League meeting between the Mustangs and Falcons likely comes a close second to the traditional season finale meeting with the Apaches in terms of motivation and meaning.
Muir has won its share of league titles during the rivalry, and even in years when the Mustangs haven't ruled the roost, a win or a loss to Muir usually figures heavily in the Falcons' own prospects for a league title or playoff berth.
"They're always the team to beat in league, especially if you want to compete for a league championship — it goes through Muir somehow," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team will host Muir at 7 p.m. on Friday at Glendale High's Moyse Field. "You've got to beat the Mustangs."
On paper, the two teams would appear to enter the game pretty evenly matched. At 3-1 and 1-0 in league, the Falcons are ranked ninth in the latest CIF Southern Section Southeast Division poll, while the Mustangs (2-2, 0-1) are ranked 10th.
One wild card, however, is how the controversy currently surrounding their head coach, Ken Howard, will affect the Mustangs' play. Howard was placed on administrative leave just before last week's league opener against reigning league co-champion Arcadia and was replaced by interim coach Dave Mitchell, who will once again run the show on Friday. Howard, an on-campus security guard at Muir, got into a physical altercation with a student, who allegedly possessed a weapon.
The Mustangs may have been thrown out of sorts by the sudden coaching upheaval, as they were blown out, 42-7, although the caliber of their opponent, ranked No. 2 in the division, could have had just as much to do with the lopsided loss.
"We don't know how much of an effect that had on them," Schilling said.
Whomever happens to be coaching on the sideline Friday, the Falcons can be fairly sure who they will see on the field. The Mustangs have been powered all season by the extremely athletic and heavily recruited all-purpose offensive threats of Kevon Seymour and Tarien Owens.
The rest of the Mustangs roster is fairly young and inexperienced, but Seymour and Owens' big-play abilities have been enough to keep the team a threat.
"When you watch them, really they're not that great of a team, but they have two phenomenal players in Owens and Seymour," Schilling said. "Those guys are legit. …The rest of the team, especially offensively, they struggle a little bit, but those guys at any moment could break a 90-yard run. At any moment, they could explode.
"We're going to try to stop their run game, make them one-dimensional and hope they don't throw over our heads too much."
Crescenta Valley is coming off a 35-0 league-opening win over Hoover, in which it passed for plenty of big plays with senior receiver Nick Ruiz exploding for 161 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches from quarterback Zac Wilkerson (219 yards passing with four scores).
"As you know, we've had our struggles the last few weeks, especially offensively," said Mitchell, whose seen his team's scoring average plummet to less than a touchdown per game during the current two-game skid, while its defense has surrendered a total of 77 points. "It's going to be important that we put up some points with their offense over there.
"As our offense matures, we're hoping our defense can get back to what we were able to accomplish the first few weeks of the season. I'm hoping that last week was an aberration with the things that have been going on and we're hoping we can get back on track soon."
Marro Lee and William Wang also anchor a reliable rushing attack for Crescenta Valley, but the passing game may prove extra important in the face of Muir's pressure.
"We'll try to counter their pursuit because they come at the ball and they come so hard," Schilling said. "We'll try to counter against that pursuit with whatever we can come up with to make their aggression work against them."
Also possibly working in the Falcons' favor is the homefield advantage, as they have only beaten Muir once on the road.
"We'll take any advantage we can," Schilling said. "Over the last 10 years, the home team has a huge advantage."
St. Francis vs. Paso Robles, 7:30 p.m. Thursday: Having already scratched West Ranch off its list of losses from last season to avenge, the Golden Knights now look to settle the score with a Bearcats team that handed them a 42-28 defeat nearly a year ago.
With unbeaten St. Francis (4-0) surging and Paso Robles coming into the contest at 1-2 and without quarterback Jacob Searcy, who was responsible for most of the damage as a senior last year, the payback may prove to be anticlimactic, much as last week's 35-0 drubbing of West Ranch was.
Paso Robles was a Western Division semifinalist last season before losing to eventual champion Gardena Serra, which also defeated St. Francis last season.
"We don't have a lot of film on them, but we know they will be a tough, hard-nosed football team just like you saw last year," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said.
Also reversed is the homefield advantage, or rather road team disadvantage of having to make a 200-mile trek by bus.
The Golden Knights, ranked fourth in the Western Division, are coming off their second shutout in their last three games and have been more than capable of putting up points, as well.
Last week, Austin De Los Santos emerged to lead the rushing attack with 101 yards and a score and transfer quarterback Jared Lebowitz and receiver Travis Talianko remain an always-dangerous combination.
Hoover vs. Burbank (at Moyse Field), 7 p.m. Thursday: The Bulldogs looked anything but unbeatable during a 1-3 nonleague campaign, but now that Pacific League play has started up again, Burbank, which shared a league title two years ago and came a win away from repeating last season, appears to be back on track.
Last week, Burbank (2-2, 1-0) opened league play with a 56-21 dismantling of Glendale, which defeated Hoover, 20-6, to open the season.
The Bulldogs may opt to simply barrage the Tornadoes' run defense, as they did to the Nitros in putting up 252 rushing yards mostly behind running back Quortney Brazier and quarterback Austin Mowatt.
Hoover (0-4, 0-1), currently on an 11-game losing streak going back to last season, was shut out for the first time this year by Crescenta Valley in its last outing, one week after putting up a season-high 21 points in a nonleague loss to Mountain View.
The Tornadoes offense simply came to a standstill against CV, compiling just 86 total yards, most of which came from senior running back Luke Tabayoyong (61 yards rushing).
Burbank has allowed just 26 total points in its last five meetings with Hoover since moving to the Pacific League and has posted three shutouts in that span.
Glendale at Pasadena, 7 p.m. Friday: Not much has gone right for the Nitros since starting the season on an upbeat note against Hoover.
Since their season opener, they have lost three in a row by progressively wider margins and will look to get their first Pacific League win against a Bulldogs squad that enters the contest with an identical 1-3, 0-1 record.
After averaging nine points per game during a difficult nonleague schedule that included losses to Alemany and Cathedral, Pasadena's offense broke out in a 49-34 shootout loss to Burroughs with quarterback Brandon Cox passing for more than 300 yards and scoring five total touchdowns.
"Pasadena likes to run the ball and they are faster than everybody else," Glendale Coach Alan Eberhart said. "I know that we can do some things and it's just having to fix some things on defense."
Stopping the run has been one of the Nitros' deficiencies so far this season, but just as important to its prospects Friday will be establishing the running game out of its own wing T offense behind Alex Yoon in order to keep Pasadena's offense off the field as much as possible.
In last year's matchup, the Bulldogs prevailed, 26-13.