While James Sims has never seen any of the 10 opponents on the La Cañada High football team's schedule this year, the Spartans' new coach won't go into any contest blindly this season.
That's because Sims, who coached in Florida before making the move to La Cañada this summer, has been studying La Cañada's opposition by reviewing last year's game film.
"That was my focus," said Sims, who inherited this year's schedule from previous coach Dan Yoder, who stepped down in December. "I have seen a lot of the opponents and I am already starting to prepare. I know how I want to defend and attack them."
La Cañada's nonleague schedule is nearly identical to last seasons with the lone new face being Eagle Rock, which was scheduled to replace Maranatha after the Minutemen defeated the Spartans, 41-10, at home in 2011.
"We haven't seen [Eagle Rock] on film, but there is a big difference between playing Maranatha and Eagle Rock so that took some pressure off," said Sims, whose team will host the Eagles, who haven't played La Cañada since 2007, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
For the third year in a row, the Spartans open the season against Alhambra — this year at home on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. — and will look to defend their home turf once again when Glendale visits on Sept. 7.
"Those first two games are very important for us," said Sims, whose Spartans didn't have a home game until the third week last year and fell to the Moors, 34-14, and defeated the Nitros, 16-14. "I would like to come out of the gate with a victory so we have a sense of pride playing at home."
La Cañada will hit the road Sept. 14 to face cross-town rival Crescenta Valley before it closes out its nonleague schedule at Arroyo Sept. 28.
Sims said La Cañada's nonleague schedule will be challenging, something he always wants as a coach.
"Tough scheduling prepares you for the playoffs," said Sims, whose Spartans were handily defeated by the Falcons, 35-14, and just edged by Arroyo, 23-21, last season. "Sometimes you have to be careful because you can make it so tough that it demoralizes the team. It's all about finding that perfect balance."
La Cañada will hope to have gathered some momentum heading into Rio Hondo League play, as the Spartans will be tested by all three of the league's playoff teams from last year right out the gate.
"You kind of like to spread [the tough teams] out but one thing good about it is you get into it early," said Sims of facing Monrovia, San Marino and South Pasadena, which finished first, second and third respectively, to start league. "If you can steal one or two games early you put yourself in the driver's seat so other teams have to win to get in and you're in a good position, but if you lose and have to play another hard one it's tough to bounce back."
The Spartans host San Marino in both teams' league opener Oct. 5, before they travel to Monrovia, which has won league with an undefeated record the past four years, Oct. 12 and then host South Pasadena Oct. 19. La Cañada closes the regular season on the road with Temple City and Blair on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, respectively.
La Cañada will look for some revenge after it fell to the Titans (37-13), Wildcats (47-2) and Tigers (21-6) before it finished fourth in league and missed the playoffs with a 3-7, 2-3 in league record last year. The Spartans two league wins came against Temple City (44-27) and Blair (28-0).
"My main goal is to build respect for the program," Sims said. "I told the players, 'I want the days of teams looking at their schedules, seeing La Cañada and thinking they've got an automatic victory over.' I want them to know when they play us they have to bring their 'A' game.' If we can accomplish that it will be easy to build from there."
Based on the film, Sims thinks the Spartans are in a good position to do that and more.
"I think we can be very competitive depending on what we see," Sims said. "We have the element of surprise, they have to prepare for what we have. From what I have seen so far, people don't run the system we are running here in California."
Aug. 31 vs. Alhambra, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Glendale, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Cres. Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Eagle Rock, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Arroyo, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. San Marino, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 12 at Monrovia, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 19 vs. South Pas, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 26 at Temple City, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 2 vs. Blair at Muir, 7 p.m.*
* denotes Rio Hondo League game