St. Francis football focusses on Mission ahead

For most of the first half of the season, the St. Francis High football team found itself in its share of close nonleague games. St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds doesn’t expect anything to change when the Golden Knights kick off Mission League at 7 p.m. Friday against host Cathedral.

“In the Mission League, week in and week out, you are expecting a dog fight,” said Bonds, whose team is 3-2 and ranked No. 8 in the latest CIF Southern Section Western Division poll. “More so now at this stage of the season.

“You can’t afford to look past anybody in our league. No matter who you are facing, it’s going to take a lot of focus and preparation. We are up for it.”

St. Francis has seen its last four games decided by eight points or less, including a 17-13 nonleague home loss against Monrovia on Friday. The Golden Knights appeared poised for a last-minute victory against Monrovia, but turned the ball over on a fumble inside the Monrovia one-yard line.

Bonds said the Golden Knights have since put the defeat behind them and have begun their preparations for a Cathedral squad that 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Western Division.

Cathedral will turn to senior quarterback Hayden Rettig, who saw his season end early last year after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus against Pasadena. The Louisiana State University-bound Rettig has thrown 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season, something Bonds, a former quarterback at UCLA, has made mention of to his players.

“He’s big and strong and can make the throws,” Bonds said. “We are going to have to be disciplined defensively.

“They are putting up lots of points and it’s going to be a huge challenge to slow them down.”

Cathedral is averaging 46.6 points per game this season. The Phantoms had a bye last week after registering a 53-14 nonleague win against Cantwell-Sacred Heart on Sept. 21.

Cathedral Coach Kevin Pearson said he's expecting a close game.

“St. Francis is well-coached and they don't make many mistakes,” Pearson said. “I think the league is extremely strong.

“With a game like this, it could come down to special teams being important. Hayden has been throwing the ball better. He's got that quick release and the ball comes out of his hand nicely.”

St. Francis quarterback Jared Lebowitz completed 16 of 27 passes for 174 yards against Monrovia. Running back Daniel Kawamura had 70 yards rushing in 21 carries and scored a touchdown.

“Lebowitz is a good quarterback, and he makes their team go,” Pearson said.

On the final week of last season, St. Francis recorded a 54-8 home win against Cathedral. The Golden Knights are 2-0 against the Phantoms since Cathedral joined the Mission League in 2010.

Burroughs vs. Crescenta Valley at Moyse Field, 7 p.m. Thursday: Crescenta Valley played arguably its best game of the season en route to a 17-14 Pacific League win against Pasadena on Friday. The Falcons will look to ride their latest wave off momentum against Burroughs, which shared the league championship with Arcadia last season.

Crescenta Valley (3-2, 1-1 in league) will face a Burroughs squad that’s 1-4, 1-1. Burroughs opened its season with four straight losses before rallying to beat visiting Glendale, 24-7, on Sept. 27.

Crescenta Valley turned to backup quarterback Joe Torres to beat Pasadena. Torres, who filled in for quarterback Ben Rees because of injury/illness, completed seven of 11 passes for 71 yards and also rushed for a touchdown.

Burroughs has turned to running back Garrett Manoukian, who has scored four touchdowns in his last three games. He had a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against Glendale.

Burroughs has had the upper hand lately against Crescenta Valley, including a 35-22 win last season. The Indians have won six of the last eight meetings and are 4-2 against the Falcons since joining the Pacific League in 2006. Crescenta Valley last topped Burroughs in 2008, when it registered a 34-32 victory.

Hoover at Arcadia, 7 p.m. Friday: After winning their first two games off the season, the Tornadoes have since fallen on hard times. Hoover (2-3, 0-2 in Pacific League) has lost its last three games.

Hoover will be up against former coach Chris Long. Long served as Hoover’s head coach from 2008-10 before resigning. He took over Arcadia this season from coach John Dimalante, who guided the Apaches to a share of the league championship.

Hoover will look to get back to the basics after finishing with only 101 yards of total offense in a 63-0 league road loss against Muir on Friday. Running back Jesse Pina finished with 65 yards rushing before hurting his knee in the third quarter.

Arcadia split its first two league games on the road, opening with an 18-8 win against Burroughs, which also shared the league championship last season. It then fell to Burbank, 41-21, on Friday. Arcadia’s two featured running backs are Jake Medel and Sheldon McKinley, who rushed for a combined 95 yards in 32 carries against Burbank.

Arcadia earned a 49-7 victory against Hoover last season.

Muir at Glendale, 7 p.m. Friday: Glendale (1-4, 0-2 in Pacific League) will look to get back on track against Muir (2-3, 2-0), having lost three games in a row.

While the Nitros have a dynamic wide receiver in Michael Davis, the Mustangs can counter with an array of talent that’s had no difficulty scoring points. Muir, which advanced to the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division semifinals last season, has also flourished on defense since league began. Muir has outscored its league foes by a 99-0 margin, including a 63-0 win against visiting Hoover on Friday.

Leading the charge for the Mustangs has been quarterback Joshua Muema-Washington. He threw five touchdowns, ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass against Hoover.

Glendale played one of its best games of the season against Burroughs in a league game on Sept. 27. The Nitros held a 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter before suffering a 24-7 defeat. The Brigham Young University-bound Davis had a 57-yard touchdown to account for the lone score for the Nitros.

Muir posted a 49-10 win against Glendale last season.

Chadwick vs. Flintridge Prep at La Cañada High, 7 p.m. Saturday: For the first time this season, the Rebels will look to put together a winning streak when they open Prep League play with the Dolphins Saturday.

Flintridge Prep didn’t have much success against Chadwick last year in a 46-7 loss in the regular season finale. All signs point to the Rebels having much more success this time around.

Prep has fared well against teams with low numbers this year. It defeated Villanova Prep (48-6) and Sage Hill (48-8), which have 27 and 32 players, respectively. The Dolphins carry 26, according to, and are coming off a one-point loss to Rosamond, 27-26, on Friday.

The Rebels could also easily be undefeated, as their three losses have been by a total of 11 points. Chadwick (3-2) and Flintridge Prep (2-3) have also had a common opponent in Malibu this year. The Sharks defeated the Dolphins, 32-29, on Sept. 7 and knocked off the Rebels, 40-34, on Sept. 21.

Flintridge Prep should also be well rested and bring plenty of confidence into the game after an explosive running attack and stout defense helped the Rebels knock off the Lightning last Saturday. Prep earned a running clock in the third quarter and sat its starters in the fourth quarter.

Stefan Smith has been Flintridge Prep’s most dangerous player this year. He ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries against Sage Hill. Kurt Kozacik had 88 rushing yards in 11 attempts in the game.

Defensively, the Rebels forced six Sage Hill turnovers in the win with middle linebacker Chad Cosse also forcing a fumble and Smith and Kozacik adding interceptions.

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