In seasons past, from cross-town rival Crescenta Valley High to Burroughs to Pasadena and Arcadia, the St. Francis football nonleague schedule has been littered with Pacific League opposition.
Only Arcadia remains standing now, however, as the Apaches will once again serve as the Golden Knights' first-week opponent. In addition, there is the glaring exodus of Crescenta Valley, meaning the long standing "Battle for Foothill Blvd." is no longer, as the Falcons opted to fill their schedule with another opponent.
"It was a good community game playing CV week two, because you knew it was gonna be a big crowd and it was a game [the players] could get pumped up for," Bonds said. "To lose that game was tough."
In all, St. Francis takes on three new nonleague opponents in Righetti, La Mirada and Monrovia in the lead up to the always-arduous Mission League.
"It's a lot of change to the schedule," said Bonds, whose team is coming off a season in which it went 9-3, advancing to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs after going 3-2 and taking third in the Mission League.
Bonds' Knights, who are looking to replace 27 seniors, will once more start the season against Arcadia, which lost to St. Francis, 31-28, last season and has dropped the last four in the rivalry. This year, however, the Apaches (9-3 last season) could have a new look under Chris Long, a former Hoover coach who replaces longtime coach Jon Dimalante.
"I'm kind of anticipating he'll be more spread out, like he was at Hoover," Bonds said in reference to Long's having run a spread offense with the Tornadoes.
St. Francis then fills the slot left vacant by Crescenta Valley's departure with a road game at Righetti — a road game with a round trip of 300 miles.
"That was part of the beauty of playing those teams was the [lack of] travel," Bonds said. "At the same time, they're somewhat community games. Maybe it's a public-private school thing where they're saying we won't play them because we're losing kids to them."
Righetti (7-4 last season) and the long trek that playing it presents does work in preparing St. Francis for a possible postseason journey, as some of the Western Division's strongest teams in the past offer lengthy bus trips in the same direction.
"It does fill the purpose of filling that bus ride up north," Bonds said. "Righetti's a good football team."
Another new team to the St. Francis schedule will be La Mirada, which went 8-5 last season and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division semifinals. This year, however, La Mirada, according to Bonds, features a few former St. Paul coaches on the staff.
"I know they're a very talented team," Bonds said.
Thereafter on Sept. 21, St. Francis travels to face West Ranch (5-5 last year) at Valencia High. The schools renewed their contract after splitting games over the past two seasons.
"It's a good program," Bonds said of the Wildcats from freshman through varsity. "It's great competition for us. We know we're gonna be challenged by them."
Coming out of the arduous Foothill League, West Ranch is seen as a formidable foe and yet is St. Francis' only nonleague opponent that didn't have a winning record a year ago.
In contrast, Monrovia posted an 11-3 record en route to winning the Mid-Valley Division title for the second season in a row.
"From what I've seen, it might be our toughest nonleague game," Bonds said. "It's gonna be big."
Though it plays in a lower division, Monrovia often boasts a tough nonleague slate and Division I prospects. Not to mention, it won't be all that far a drive on the 210 (Foothill Freeway) for the Wildcats.
"It kind of fills that community game that we lost with some of the Pacific League games," Bonds said. "I think it's a great game for us."