Things can change quickly from week to week in Pacific League football — just ask Crescenta Valley High.
A week ago, the Falcons were on top of the world after a huge win against Muir, not to mention on top of the league standings as one of three unbeaten teams and in the thick of the league title hunt.
One road loss to Pasadena later and the Falcons (4-2, 2-1 in league) faces a new challenge: Beat defending champion Burroughs (3-3, 3-0) today at 7 p.m. at Moyse Field and jump right back in the title fray or lose to the Indians and spend the rest of the season fighting for their very playoff lives.
"If we beat Burroughs, the last three weeks we're part of a league championship run, we've got a shot, we're in the race," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team also started 2-0 in league last year before losing its last five games and missing the playoffs. "If we lose, we have to win two of three to even make the playoffs and be in fourth place, so that's how crazy every game is and how important [it is]."
Not only did Burroughs share the league title with Arcadia last season, but the Indians are currently the only unbeaten team in league and are one of only two league squads ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division, at 10th. The Apaches are ranked fifth despite losing to Burroughs, 41-29, on Oct. 7.
The Indians' offense runs on the legs of senior running back Zander Anding and the power of its offensive line, which together have been an unstoppable force in league. Anding has rushed for 1,515 yards and has scored 16 touchdowns on the season, while breaking the school's single-game rushing record three times already, most recently with 393 rushing yards on 22 carries in Thursday's 70-34 win over Glendale.
"We'll know exactly every time they come up to the ball what play they're going to run," said Schilling, whose team peaked at ninth in the division poll after beating Muir on Oct. 7, but has since dropped out of the top 10. "We'll know they're going to run the counter or they're going to run the stretch and they don't care. They've got a great offensive line and they've got this back and they're just going to say, 'Hey, we're going to run it right there and our guys are tougher than your guys.'"
The Indians rarely go to the aerial game, meaning the Falcons' defense will be up against a very different look than it saw against the Bulldogs squad that carved it up for a season-high in points allowed in Friday's 53-41 loss.
"Last week we played most likely the best quarterback in the league in Brandon Cox," said Schilling of the Pasadena junior that passed for just shy of 300 yards and threw for four touchdowns. "This week, we'll be playing likely the best running back in the league."
As porous as Crescenta Valley's defense was against Pasadena, its offense produced a season-high in points and had one of its most prolific offensive performances with 567 total yards, led by Marro Lee's season-high 196 rushing yards.
And, while Burroughs has scored a lot of points in league, averaging better than 53 per game, its defense has allowed just over 32 per contest.
St. Francis at Gardena Serra, 7 p.m. Friday: The upcoming stretch of games could make or break the Golden Knights as far as the Mission League is concerned, as the next three will all be against ranked opponents in the CIF Southern Section Western Division.
They will have to get it all done on the road, as well, with Friday's 23-20 win over Harvard-Westlake to open league being the last time the Golden Knights (6-0, 1-0 in league) will see Friedman Field until the regular-season finale against Cathedral on Nov. 11.
The gauntlet begins with a Serra squad that won the Mission League and Western Division championship last season and enters ranked fourth in this season's most recent poll, one spot behind St. Francis.
And while the Cavaliers are still a highly-regarded team, they have graduated some of their most potent weapons form last season in running back George Farmer and receiver Marquise Lee, both now at USC.
This year, Serra (4-2, 1-0), which is coming off a 40-0 league win over Cathedral, is led by quarterback Jalen Greene, who has a deep mix of backs and wideouts to distribute the ball to.
"They're athletic, but they're not the same football team as last year," said St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds, whose team was handed its worst loss of the season last season by Serra, 41-14. "I like our chances, this team has showed a lot of character in our early games this season."
St. Francis is led by transfer quarterback Jared Lebowitz, who is coming off a game in which he recorded over 300 yards of total offense and was voted player of the week for his team. The Golden Knights defense has been very effective, as the 20 points it allowed to the Wolverines was as many as it had surrendered in its previous four combined.
"We've got to, obviously, execute our game plan going down there, contain their speed and play a little bit better offensively," Bonds said.
Glendale at Muir, 7 p.m. Friday: The Nitros have shown an increased aptitude for scoring points lately, averaging 40 over their last two contests, but it still hasn't equated with winning games.
Heading into Friday's Pacific League tilt, Glendale (1-5, 0-3) is riding a five-game losing streak and gets no breaks this week against a speedy, dangerous Mustangs squad that is notoriously tough at home. Still, Nitros Coach Alan Eberhart likes his team's chances if it can keep its scoring going at a steady level.
"If we can score 46 points again, we can win the game," said Eberhart, whose team did just that in a 47-46 loss to Pasadena Oct. 7 before losing to Burroughs last week. "We [already] did it, so we don't have to convince the kids that we can."
That kind of performance will take strong games from the Nitros' offensive weapons Alex Yoon and Michael Davis, whether it means a big rushing game from Yoon, getting the explosive Davis active in the return game or getting one or both involved in the receiving game with quarterback Evan Norton.
Regardless of what happens offensively, however, the Nitros figure to have their work cut out on defense all evening trying to contain Muir's own considerable prowess in the passing and running game.
Usually led by their top athletes, Tarien Owens and Kevon Seymour, the Mustangs (3-3, 1-2) also got a pair of rushing touchdowns from Travonta Herod and three passing scores from quarterback Joshua Muema-Washington in Friday's 42-0 win over Hoover that snapped a three-game losing streak.
"Muir's not as good as they've been, but they're still Muir, [it's] still on the road and we're going to have our hands full," Eberhart said. "They've got a couple of good players. We need to contain those players."
Hoover vs. Arcadia (at Moyse Field) 7 p.m. Saturday: With the winless Tornadoes still looking for their first points in league and the defending-champion Apaches (4-2, 2-1) ranked fifth in the division, perhaps the most intrigue surrounding this game is on the sidelines.
First-year Hoover Coach Andrew Policky is far more accustomed to being on the Arcadia side of this matchup, as he both played and coached for veteran Apaches Coach Jon Dimalante before taking over the Tornadoes. It's Policky's first head-to-head meeting with his old team and also the first chance Policky's predecessor at Hoover, Chris Long, will get to face the Tornadoes, as Long has returned to his former role as an Arcadia assistant since resigning from Hoover earlier this year.
On the field, the Tornadoes (0-6, 0-3) will encounter a team that recently had its hopes of winning a second league title dented by a loss to Burroughs, but remains a league power all the same with dominant wins over Muir and Burbank to its credit.
Arcadia is led by quarterback Myles Carr, who has passed for 1,237 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, with 528 of those yards and five touchdowns going to standout receiver Taylor Lagace.
Hoover has been outscored, 125-0, in losses to Crescenta Valley, Burroughs and Muir and lost to Arcadia, 49-6, in last year's meeting.
Flintridge Prep vs. Viewpoint (at La Cañada High) 7 p.m. Friday: The Rebels have spent a large part of this season off the field, as Prep has forfeited two games so far this year, due to an already thin roster being decimated by injuries.
Prep returns to action this week against Viewpoint, after forfeiting its Prep League opener against Webb last week because of a lack of available players. The last time the Rebels took the field on Oct. 1, they were defeated by Malibu, 49-0, and saw their 15-player roster get trimmed to 13 as two more players — starting quarterback Clayton Weirick and backup quarterback Stefan Smith — came off the field with injuries.
The Patriots (4-2, 0-1 in league) figure to be a handful for the Rebels (1-4, 0-1 in league), although they had a four-game winning streak snapped by Rio Hondo Prep last week, 50-14.
Viewpoint had a much stronger showing against Bell-Jeff, the one team it has in common with Prep so far this year. The Patriots rolled through the Guards, 62-20, while the Rebels just beat them, 12-8, in their season opener for their lone win of the year.
Balance is the key for Viewpoint's offense. The Patriots have passed for 957 yards and ran for 1,119 so far this season. Joey Verhaegh leads the team at quarterback. He has completed 57 of 117 passes for 952 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries.
Adam Markum leads a stable of Viewpoint running backs, manufacturing 568 yards and 10 touchdowns on 59 carries this year. Not far behind him is Dakota Williams, who has run for 319 yards and five touchdowns on 42 carries.