After landing a crushing blow in one of its more intense Prep League rivalries on Saturday, the Flintridge Prep football team will take some momentum into the granddaddy of them all.
The Rebels, coming off a 54-19 home dismantling of Chadwick last week, face off with host Pasadena Poly at 2 p.m. Saturday. And, as if a game with the Rebels' most intense adversary needed any further incentive, Prep will have an opportunity to open league 2-0 with the inside track to a playoff berth going into next week's meeting with league champion Rio Hondo Prep.
"Our boys have worked hard and I think they kind of turned the corner last week in terms of understanding what it means to really put a team away," said Prep Coach Antonio Harrison, whose team improved to 3-3. "They're all pumped up still from Saturday and Poly's a big game for us."
Poly enters at 4-1, ranked eighth in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, but is yet to play a league game, as it is coming off a bye week.
"It's our first league game, so we're anxious to get going in league," Panthers Coach Brendan McGrail said. "We got a chance to see all the four other teams in league play last week, and certainly Flintridge Prep had a very impressive victory and they're riding a lot of momentum coming off of that."
Tops on the Panthers' list will no doubt be slowing the pace of Prep's standout senior tailback Stefan Smith, who scored four total touchdowns against Chadwick — his fourth straight week with multiple touchdowns and third straight with at least three — to bring his season total to 14.
"There's a lot to worry about," McGrail said. "I would say the running game is the place it starts with them and Stefan Smith there is very talented and coming off a four-touchdown game. Not only is he talented by himself, but they run a good scheme and he has good blocking in front."
Poly relies heavily on the run itself and has prospered behind the efforts of senior Jake Zelek and sophomore Griffin Carter. The Panthers are on the younger side with nine sophomores on varsity.
"We're going to key on everything that they do with their tendencies, we're going to make sure the boys stay home and play it safe, but play aggressive," said Harrison, whose team was defeated, 20-0, by Poly last season. "We're going to keep on our game plan of stopping the run, forcing pass and also trying to stop the pass with pressure."
The Rebels have one common opponent this season in Malibu, which lost to Poly, 22-19, on Sept. 15 before defeating Prep, 40-34, on Sept. 21. But Poly's last game was a 50-49 Oct. 5 loss to Bellarmine-Jefferson, which was clobbered by Malibu last week.
"Poly is always fundamentally sound, they always have great athletes and their coaching's stellar," Harrison said. "But the thing about Poly is no matter what's going on in their season, they get up to play us, the same way we get up to play them.
"They have a pretty young team, but they have a talented team, so I expect a pretty hard-fought battle."
St. Francis at Harvard Westlake 7 p.m. Friday: The Golden Knights will be desperate to rid themselves of the bitter memories that have accumulated over the past two weeks when Friday night football kicks off. They'll have to do so against another formidable opponent in the Wolverines, who are ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division.
A two-game losing streak — with both coming in heartbreaking fashion — has dropped St. Francis to 3-3, 0-1 in the Mission League this year. The Knights are two turnovers away from being 5-1 after a fumble at the goalline led to a home loss to Monrovia (17-13) Sept. 28 and a late interception sealed a league-opening loss to Cathedral (42-40) last week.
While the late interception may stick out, St. Francis quarterback Jared Lebowitz had another stellar performance against Cathedral, completing 28 of 51 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Tommy Scheper (10 receptions for 175 yards and a score) and Evan Crawford (six catches for 86 yards and three touchdowns) were his two favorite targets.
For the season Lebowitz is 102 for 179 with 1,530 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 104. Harvard-Westlake has its own standout quarterback in senior Chad Kanoff. He's completed 62 percent of his passes (109 for 175) for 1,981 yards, 26 scores and just two picks.
St. Francis overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit for a 23-20 victory over Harvard-Westlake at home last year with Knights kicker Billy McCreary converting a 37-yard field goal with two seconds left to deliver the win.
The Wolverines are 5-1, riding a five-game winning streak after dropping their season opener at Loyola, 42-27. Harvard-Westlake has scored more than 40 points in each of its wins this season, and also seems to sport a formidable defense — holding its opponents to an average of 10.40 points in those games.
St. Francis running back Daniel Kawamura (453 yards, three touchdowns on 73 carries) could be in for a big game for the Golden Knights, though, as the Wolverines have given up big games on the ground on a few occasions this year.
Loyola's Wyatt Bradford ran for 215 yards on 22 carries against Harvard-Westlake, which saw St. Paul's Kurt Scoby accumulate 337 rushing yards on 32 carries last week.
La Cañada at Monrovia 7 p.m. Friday: The Spartans got out to one of their best starts of the year last week when they scored on their first drive and forced a turnover on San Marino's opening drive.
La Cañada quarterback Robbie Fuelling, who replaced Matt Jones as the starting signal caller, hit Grant Owen with an 82-yard touchdown pass on La Cañada's first drive, and Owen halted the Titans' opening drive when he intercepted a pass.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, they couldn't maintain the momentum as the Titans' ground attack took over en route to a 42-17 victory.
Things get no easier for La Cañada this week when it travels to Monrovia to take on the Wolverines, who are ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division and will look to win their third straight division title this year.
Monrovia has won the last six Rio Hondo League titles and has the ability to attack on the ground or through the air offensively with quarterback and St. Francis transfer Blake Heyworth (70 of 135 for 1,055 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions), receiver Matt Bryant (452 yards, three scores on 26 receptions) and senior running back Ge Vontray Ainsworth (541 yards, four touchdowns on 65 carries).
Defense may be where the Wildcats (4-2, 1-0) are most intimidating. They have only allowed 20 points or more twice this year and held the Spartans to two points in a 47-2 win last year. Monrovia is coming off wins over South Pasadena (53-14) and St. Francis (17-13), while La Cañada has seen its losing streak climb to five games.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun