The road to CIF glory is rarely an easy one and for locals Crescenta Valley High and St. Francis their respective paths will begin with road matchups against league champions.
The Golden Knights will travel to face Paramount, the San Gabriel Valley League champion, on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs, as the Falcons will take on host La Mirada, the Suburban League champion, on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Southeast Division.
St. Francis, which garnered one of its division’s four a-large bids for the second straight year, rides a two-game winning streak into the playoffs and sports an 8-2 record after going 3-2 in the arduous Mission League.
"It's a fun time in the playoffs," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team is coming off a resounding 54-8 win over Cathedral. "You want to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourself and I think we do right now."
Mission League champion Gardena Serra was bestowed with the No. 1 seed in the division, while second-place Chaminade is the No. 3 seed.
Paramount (5-5) shared the San Gabriel Valley League title with Downey and Dominguez, which defeated St. Francis in last season’s first round. The Pirates are a run-heavy squad that’s thrown five touchdowns passes as a team and scored 27 on the ground. They’re led by Carlwayne Gable, who’s averaging 8.3 yards a carry, has scored seven touchdowns and run for 739 yards.
"The more and more I look at them, it's not gonna be easy. They're playing good football right now," said Bonds of Paramount, which won four of its last five. "They like to run the ball a lot of different ways. We're gonna have our work cut out for us going on the road down there.
"I think a lot of people just look at the records and think, 'Oh, St. Francis is 8-2, they're only 5-5, St. Francis wins this one,' but it's not gonna be easy."
Offensively for St. Francis, senior Austin De Los Santos has rushed for 847 yards in 166 carries and scored five touchdowns. For much of the season, though it’s been the Golden Knights defense — led by the likes of senior linebacker Joey Dowling, senior safety Travis Talianko and senior defensive end Tyler Marona — that has been the team’s biggest highlight.
Should the Golden Knights prevail, they would advance to play either Dos Pueblos or second-seeded Arroyo Grande in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons, who tied for third in the Pacific League and enter as the league’s No. 4 seed, will take on a La Mirada squad (6-4) that is the division’s fourth seed. La Mirada has won five straight and scored more than 40 points in every win.
Crescenta Valley will try to rebound after a 31-7 loss on Friday to rival Arcadia. Marro Lee, a running back, and Nick Ruiz, a receiver and defensive back, have been keys for the Falcons (6-4). Lee has rushed for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns, while Ruiz has hauled in 10 touchdown catches and 831 yards receiving.
If CV moves past La Mirada, it would face either Bonita or Arcadia in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons advanced to the quarterfinals in 2009, but did not qualify for the postseason last year.