The road to CIF glory is rarely an easy one and for St. Francis High, its path will begin on the road against a league champion.
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.
And Golden Knights Coach Jim Bonds, for one, doesn't believe it's an easy first-round matchup in the least.
"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. "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."
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 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.
"They like to run the ball a lot of different ways," Bonds said. "We're gonna have our work cut out for us going on the road down there.
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.