Above: The good ‘ol days with St. Francis keeper Jordan Bell.
I got a lot of heat last week for ranking St. Francis (2-8) the area’s No. 1 team in the West San Gabriel Valley. Things always look different depending on where you sit, huh? I stand by my choice, and here’s (another) chance for you all to comment on how oblivious I am to sports: St. Francis will be the No. 1 team come Wednesday’s rankings.
The answer is simple, and I really wish some of you understood the logic behind it. St. Francis hands down has the toughest schedule in the San Gabriel Valley, better than Monrovia’s, better than La Caada’s and better than Baldwin Park’s. St. Francis was the only team in our area to play in the prestigious Southern California Classic, known as the West Coast Classic a few years ago. It was a tournament I heavily covered in my four years at the Register, and it was easily the best high school soccer tournament in the nation when I covered it back in the day. For you soccer aficionados, the West Coast Classic can rival that of the prestigious Dallas Cup, and so on. (Not even the soccer-heavy city of South Bradenton, Fla. puts a tournament of the Classic’s caliber).
Take a look at St. Francis’ schedule. The Golden Knights played four teams ranked in ESPN’s FAB 50 rankings: Santa Barbara, Santa Margarita, Brophy Prep and El Camino Real, at one point ranked the No. 1 team in the nation. You can try to question the legitimacy of the FAB 50 rankings (after all, yours truly was a weekly voter), but nevertheless all are soccer powers in their respective region.
Just for fun, let’s say St. Francis didn’t play in the Classic and take its Mission League schedule alone. It’s arguably the toughest high school soccer league in the CIF-Southern Section; the Trinity League is up there, too. Yes, so far the Golden Knights are off to a rocky start in league (0-2) with losses to Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade. “Of course there’s a concern,” St. Francis coach Glen Appels said. “But we’ve been right there. The truth of the matter is with the young guys we just have to get on the right side. I don’t think there’s any panic at this point. This is a huge week for us.”
Huge week, indeed: St. Francis takes on host Notre Dame today; at Alemany on Wednesday; and the big show on Friday at 5 p.m. against visiting Loyola. That the Golden Knights are the defending CIF Southern California Regional champions is of little to no pressure.
“That was just part of a larger picture,” Appels said. “I don’t think when the season started anyone said they wanted to go out and win the regional championship, but that was a bonus. What we want to do is make a nice run in the Mission League and be successful in the playoffs, and I don’t think that’s pressure either. It’s more of an expectation.”
That’s St. Francis soccer for you: An expectation to be great is the driving force, not pressure.