With a restructured Mission League and a handful of fresh nonleague foes to contend with, the 2010 St. Francis High football schedule was one rife with unfamiliar and unforgiving opponents.
A season later, St. Francis is well aware of just how dangerous its 2011 slate can be.
"I knew our schedule was gonna be tougher last year," said St. Francis football Coach Jim Bonds, whose Golden Knights went 6-5 and 3-2 in league for second place en route to a CIF Southern Section Western Division playoff appearance. "With 17- and 18-year-olds, if you have teams on your schedule that they don't know or haven't played, or aren't in their area, they're not always gonna give them the respect they should. One thing I know is they're gonna give West Ranch the respect they deserve now. I know they're gonna give Paso Robles and Venice the respect they deserve. I think that's to our advantage."
Unlike the 2010 campaign that was drastically different from previous seasons' schedules, the 2011 Golden Knights slate is largely the same as the previous season, aside from alternating sites and the order in which St. Francis takes on the gauntlet that is the Mission League.
One portion of the St. Francis schedule that has gone unchanged during Bonds' tenure, however, is how the Golden Knights lead off their season. As per usual, St. Francis will open up against Arcadia before moving on to face Crescenta Valley in the "Battle for Foothill Boulevard" in the second week.
"I like the staffs at both places, they're classy high schools, the proximity is nice," Bonds said. "I like those games."
St. Francis won both of the aforementioned encounters last season and also prevailed against Venice in the third week. This time around, it will travel to face its City Section foe on Sept. 23.
On Sept. 30, it will face the Foothill League's West Ranch, which defeated St. Francis in the teams' first-ever meeting last year in a thrilling 35-34 nailbiter. That game also served as the onset of a four-game losing streak for the Golden Knights.
It was a losing streak that continued the following week against Paso Robles, which will make the lengthy trip south to face St. Francis at Friedman Field on Thursday, Oct. 6. It will be the only non-Friday game of the year for St. Francis.
"I didn't want a short week going into league and they didn't either," said Bonds of the decision to play Paso Robles on a Thursday rather than a Saturday, as St. Francis was unable to play on Friday due to a yearly agreement with La Cañada not to host games on the same night.
The home game against West Ranch will also begin a span of three straight home games that carries into St. Francis' Mission League opener against Harvard-Westlake — one of three consecutive league adversaries the Golden Knights defeated last season to work their way into the playoffs.
After the Oct. 14 league opener against Harvard-Westlake, St. Francis will then take to the road for three straight weeks and, in the process, take on the two likely favorites for the league crown.
"I think some people are saying Chaminade ahead of Serra, but I think you need to give Serra the nod based on history," Bonds said.
St. Francis will face Serra, the defending league champion, on the road on Oct. 21 before an Oct. 28 road game at Chaminade and a Nov. 4 road game at St. Paul.
"That's just the way it came together," said Bonds on the schedule featuring three consecutive home games followed by three straight road games. "You would prefer home, away, home, away throughout your season.
"It's not the perfect situation, but it is what we were dealt."
St. Francis' regular season finale will come Nov. 11 at home against Cathedral.
Sept. 9 at Arcadia, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Crescenta Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Venice, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. West Ranch, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs. Paso Robles, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 vs. Harvard-Westlake, 7:30 p.m.*
Oct. 21 at Serra, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 28 at Chaminade, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 4 at St. Paul, 7:30 p.m.*
Nov. 11 vs. Cathedral, 7:30 p.m.*
*denotes Mission League game
All home games at Friedman Field