The high school football season begins this weekend for Southern Section teams in the Glendale area.
Last season, Crescenta Valley, La Canada and Flintridge Prep advanced to the playoffs in their respective divisions, with Flintridge Prep winning the Small Schools Eight-Man championship.
This season, at least six area schools figure to have a shot at postseason berths, including St. Francis, Glendale and Ribet Academy. Following is a team-by-team look at the Southern Section schools in the Glendale area:
Crescenta Valley (6-5 in 1989): The Falcons, under sixth-year Coach Jim Beckenhauer, open their season Friday at La Canada with just 29 players on the roster.
Crescenta Valley is thin not only in numbers but in experience.
Gone from last year's team--which finished third in the Pacific League before losing in the first round of the Division II playoffs--are quarterback Ryan Kadletz, linebacker Pat Kennelly and wide receiver Aaron Erickson.
Beckenhauer is optimistic because of returning players such as Jason Schwaiger and Eric Steinlight, as well as newcomers from a sophomore team that was 9-1 last season.
Schwaiger, a senior running back and linebacker, averaged four yards a carry last season.
Steinlight, a junior defensive end, was selected to the All-Pacific League third team after recording 51 tackles.
Key newcomers include junior Jason Roundtree, who will play running back and defensive back, and junior wide receivers Khoa Nguyen and Brett Miller.
Flintridge Prep (9-2): The defending Small Schools Eight-Man champion opens its season Saturday at home against San Diego Bishop.
Glen Beattie was The Times' Glendale-area Coach of the Year last season for leading Flintridge Prep to its first Southern Section championship of any kind. However, the Rebels are longshots to repeat because of the loss of quarterback Chris Bisgaard and wide receiver/defensive back David Swayne, the division's co-Players of the Year last season.
Bisgaard is now at Saddleback College and Swayne is at Duke.
But the absence of Bisgaard and Swayne might be somewhat of a blessing, if only because it will allow the Rebels to showcase the talent of Chaka Miller, a senior who will move into the backfield as a quarterback or a running back after earning All-Southern Section accolades last season as a tight end.
Glendale (4-6): The Dynamiters just missed the playoffs in 1989, but Coach Don Shoemaker figures to have one of the area's best teams in years.
Optimism runs high mainly because of running back Pathon Rucker and offensive lineman Albert Ocon--the two best players at their positions in the Glendale area.
Rucker, the only sophomore on the Times' All-Glendale team last season, rushed for a season-high 237 yards against Bellarmine-Jefferson.
At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Ocon seemingly is a lock to earn all-league honors for the third season in a row.
Glendale opens Friday at Alhambra.
Hoover (1-9): The Tornadoes, who open Friday against Burbank, return only five starters from last season's team.
Fifth-year Coach Dennis Hughes is counting on productive seasons from senior fullback/linebacker Charlie Barnes and senior halfback/linebacker Ara Balkian.
Rene Gabri, a senior, will start at quarterback and direct the Tornadoes' wishbone attack.
La Canada (7-4): The Spartans have nine starters back from a team that made it to the Division VII playoffs.
Coach Nic Larez's biggest challenge will be molding a winner without the help of running back Paul Traughber and kicker Ross Allan, Times' All-Glendale picks last season.
Senior Cliff Suwa will start at running back with senior Chris Plamann and junior Chris Ray competing for the quarterback job.
Senior Rick Siegler will start at wide receiver and safety.
La Canada plays host to Crescenta Valley on Friday night.
St. Francis (1-9): The Golden Knights are in a new league and a new division this season.
The Division I Del Rey League was scrapped by the member Catholic schools, so St. Francis is in the Division VII San Fernando League with St. Genevieve, Harvard, El Segundo and Bell-Jeff.
And while second-year Coach Bill Garrison is hesitant to make any predictions, the potential for success is surely there now that the Golden Knights will no longer have to deal with the likes of Loyola, St. John Bosco, Alemany and Crespi week after week.
St. Francis has 12 starters returning, including quarterback John Willis, tight end/defensive lineman Marty Konrad and defensive lineman Ernie Hull.
The Golden Knights play host to Burroughs on Friday night.
Ribet Academy (4-4): The Fighting Frogs begin their second season of competition under first-year Coach Ric Desotell, who replaces Harry Morgan.
Jrmirol Duncan, who led the Ribet basketball team to the Small Schools Division basketball championship, will take on leadership responsibilities for the football team as he moves from tailback to quarterback.
Jacquin Moore, another basketball standout, will start at fullback for the Fighting Frogs, who open play Saturday at Webb.