Local football squads look for strong starts to 2012

The following are previews of the area's upcoming high school football games this week.

While the La Cañada High football season doesn't kickoff until Thursday evening against visiting Alhambra High, new Spartans Coach James Sims started the year early by scouting the Moors' season opener with Mountain View last Friday.

"We feel we are a good matchup with them, we are comfortable," said Sims, who saw Alhambra fall to the Vikings on the road, 10-6. "When I say comfortable, I am not saying we're cocky or have an automatic victory, but I think we have a good shot."

In 2011, Alhambra defeated La Cañada, 34-14, a week after it had also beat Mountain View, 47-7. The Moors and Spartans are in similar situations this year with brand new coaches in Joe Kanach and Sims, respectively, that are implementing new offensive and defensive schemes.

Sims said a fast start and maintaining a homefield advantage will be keys for the Spartans this season, calling their first two games of 2012, which are both at home, games they "need" to win.

This year started badly for Alhambra, as it lost the turnover battle to Mountain View, 4-1, with three interceptions and one lost fumble. The Moors struggled to get much going offensively with just 144 total offensive yards (95 passing, 49 rushing), while giving up 178 yards to the Vikings on the ground alone, according to Maxpreps.com.

Alhambra's run defense is one thing Sims will look to take advantage of tonight.

"Mountain View ran off tackle all night long with a lot of success and [the Moors] weren't able to stop them," Sims said. "Offensively, Alhambra couldn't do much on the ground and couldn't really do much passing the ball, either."

For one, Sims thinks he can capitalize on the size advantage he said his offensive line has on Alhambra's defensive line.

"That's our strength, our strength is our offensive line," Sims said. "When you come to the game there's not going to be any secret — we are going to run right at them. They are going to have to prove they can stop us because our offensive line is a lot bigger and we have some big, physical backs."

Andy Paynter figures to have a big game for La Cañada, as the team's primary running back. Change-of-pace backs like Jadon Henry, Grant Owen and quarterback Matt Jones should also figure into the running game.

"We are in a good position," Sims said. "We feel good about our chances, but we have to play mistake-free football. Alhambra has some athletes and if we make some mistakes we know they can beat us as easily as we can beat them."

Arcadia at St. Francis, 7:30 p.m. Friday: While the 2011 matchup between the Apaches and Golden Knights had plenty of excitement, St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds will look to do away with the dramatics this year after it relied on a last-second field goal to cap an 18-point comeback for a 31-28 victory at Arcadia to kick off the 2011 season.

St. Francis is looking to build on a 9-3 finish in 2011, a year it advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs.

Senior quarterback Jared Lebowitz will look to lead the Golden Knights over Arcadia again this year, as he threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns in last year's meeting between the teams. He will have to do so without the help of running back Austin De Los Santos, who graduated in 2011. De Los Santos ran for 109 yards on 24 carries in last year's game.

The Apaches come into the game looking to recover from a 29-7 road loss to Rio Hondo Prep last week.

Flintridge Prep at Army-Navy, 1:15 p.m. Saturday: Rebels Coach Antonio Harrison intentionally scheduled an overnight trip to Carlsbad to take on Army-Navy as a team-bonding experience.

Flintridge Prep will also be looking to come back with something positive to build on this season after it went 1-8 with two forfeits in 2011. Prep's lone victory came in its season opener with Bellarmine-Jefferson, 12-8, last year.

Army-Navy, which finished with a 4-7, 3-2 in the San Diego Section's Pacific League record and earned a playoff berth last year, is one of four new opponents the Rebels will face this year.

The Rebels will lean on their 15 seniors, which largely fills out their a 23-man roster, for success not only in their opener but the entire season. Returning quarterback Clayton Weirick and running backs Stefan Smith and Kurt Kozacik will lead Prep's offense with a new look 3-5 defense and special teams on deck for Prep.

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