Knights welcome Monrovia clash

In recent years, the St. Francis High football team has frequently looked to the Pacific League to fill its nonleague schedule, sometimes playing as many as three opponents from the league in one season.

But with annual clashes with Burroughs and Crescenta Valley falling by the wayside, the Golden Knights have looked to another nearby league to fill the void in the Monrovia Wildcats of the Rio Hondo League, who will visit Friedman Field at 7 p.m. Friday.

"With their success recently, [plus] it's a local game that replaces a couple of Pacific League foes and it's not too bad a travel, we thought it would be a good matchup," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said of Monrovia, which won the CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship last season and is currently ranked third in the division. "We know they're athletic, too, so it helps us prepare for some of the teams that we play in [the Mission] League."

The Golden Knights have attempted to construct a rigorous set of challenges in their early games to ramp up for the start of league play and have passed most of them in going 3-1 with their only loss coming to Southeast Division No.1-ranked La Mirada on Sept. 14.

St. Francis, ranked fourth in the Western Division, was in danger of losing two in a row last week when it trailed West Ranch late, but the Golden Knights rallied for a 38-30 win on the road.

"For us to come back the way we did, it showed me a lot," Bonds said. "I like the fight in our team, I like their attitude and there's no quit. We might not be the most talented team on the field every night, but I know they're not going to quit, so that's a nice thing to have in your back pocket as a coach."

Monrovia showed the same competitive fire in its last game, scoring 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, but still lost to South Hills, 30-27, to fall to 2-2

"They're a very good football team," Bonds said of Monrovia, which also lost to Ayala, 16-15, in its season opener on Aug. 31. "They're 2-2, but they've lost to two very good teams in South Hills and Ayala. They're athletic, it should be a nice community game for us."

The Golden Knights have benefited from the strong play of quarterback Jared Lebowitz, who has topped the 200-yard mark passing in his past three games, including a season-best 304 against West Ranch. Daniel Kawamura has emerged as the team's top back with 359 yards on the season although he has been held under 100 in each of the past two games.

Defensive back Joey Velladao continues to lead the team in tackles with 48 after notching another 10 last week.

The Wildcats' offense is run by quarterback Blake Heyworth, a St. Francis transfer who has passed for 843 yards with eight touchdowns, but also five interceptions. The running game is powered by Ge Vontray Ainsworth and Darione Jones, who are averaging 8.68 and 5.37 yards per carry, respectively.

Crescenta Valley vs. Pasadena (at Moyse Field), 7 p.m. Friday: After a crushing 36-0 loss at Muir to open Pacific League play last week, the Falcons are back on their home field for another league tilt against another Pasadena-area squad brimming with speed and athleticism.

The Bulldogs (1-3) have gone 1-1 without star quarterback Brandon Cox to a broken foot in a loss to Cathedral on Sept. 7, with their first win coming in the league opener against Glendale, 35-0, on Friday.

The initial prognosis had Cox missing three to six weeks, which allows for the possibility of Cox returning in time for Friday's game, a proposition that has muddied the Falcons' preparation considerably.

"Three weeks is Friday, so we're in that predicament of how much do we get ready for him," Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling said. "We don't know if he's going to play — he's a phenomenal player — but they're a good team anyway, they like to run the ball and they have some great athletes."

If Cox remains sidelined, the Falcons (2-2) will likely see Caleb Devine making his second career varsity start, but the Bulldogs certainly don't need to lean on the passing game to be successful. Torus Stepney rushed for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Kylon Fleming broke a 79-yard touchdown run against the Nitros.

The Falcons must get their offense back on track with either Ben Rees or Joe Torres, both of whom tried their hand at quarterback against Muir. If Crescenta Valley can get behind its rugged offensive line and grind out possessions with running back William Wang, it may be able to counter Pasadena's speed.

Hoover at Muir, 7 p.m. Friday: After a solid 2-1 start to the season, the Tornadoes experienced a rude welcoming into Pacific League play with a 48-7 loss to Burbank on Thursday to fall to 2-2 with their 15th straight league loss.

They also lost their starting quarterback, Brendon Kerr, to a knee injury in the first half and he did not return. It's unknown whether he'll play on Friday.

Muir (1-3) struck quickly on many of its scoring plays against the Falcons, hitting paydirt on the first play of four different drives and scoring on plays of 96 and 54 yards. If the Tornadoes are unable to shore up the holes in their defensive line and improve open-field tackling, they could be in for another long night after giving up four running plays of 30 yards or more, including scoring plays of 52 and 48 yards.

"Muir has a very athletic football team," Policky said. "They play very good defense over there, they fly around and get to the ball. Offensively they make a lot of big plays. If they get out in space, it's going to be tough to get those guys on the ground."

Glendale at Burroughs, 7 p.m. Thursday: There have been some bright spots for Glendale this season, including a 21-3 win over La Cañada on Sept. 7 and the presence of receiver Mike Davis and running back Christian Osorio as reliable offensive weapons.

But since starting 1-1, Glendale has been roughed up a bit in its last two games, being outscored, 74-0, in contests against South Pasadena and Pasadena.

In the Indians (0-4), the Nitros face a team that has struggled to score in its own right, averaging just 11.3 points per game and scoring only one more point (45) than Glendale has this season.

Turnovers cost the Nitros in their loss to Pasadena, as well as an inability to capitalize on Pasadena fumbles, so forcing Burroughs to make mistakes and capitalizing on them may be a key for Glendale's chances this week.

Sage Hill vs. Flintridge Prep at Occidental College, 10:30 a.m. Saturday: While injuries haven't plagued the Rebels so far as they did in 2011, their small numbers have made it difficult for them to close out games.

Flintridge Prep has seen three leads disappear — two in the fourth quarter — so far this season. Its defense has struggled in the fourth quarter when its star players start to cramp and have to take plays off. That was the focus of Prep Coach Antonio Harrison's postgame interview after his team fell to Malibu in its home opener Friday, 40-34.

Harrison and the Rebels, who are 1-3, will look to get back in the win column Saturday against a struggling Sage Hill squad. The Lightning is 0-5 this year and has lost by an average of 27.20 points after falling to Bishop, 48-13, last Saturday.

Both Flintridge Prep and Sage Hill are run-heavy offenses. Stefan Smith and Kurt Kozacik have fueled Prep's offense this season. Smith ran 235 yards, three scores on 20 carries and caught four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown and also blocked a Malibu extra-point kick to send last week's game into overtime. Kozacik tallied 77 yards on 16 carries against the Sharks.

The Lightning depend almost solely on Joe Melita. The senior running back has tallied 497 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 66 carries this year.

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