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Spartans prepare for a season filled with tests

Football: Spartans will face last year's top three Rio Hondo League teams in first three weeks of league play.

August 24, 2011|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

The La Cañada High football team will face its biggest test in its first week of Rio Hondo League play, as the Spartans host Monrovia, the 2010 Rio Hondo League and CIF Southern Section Mid-Valley Division champions, to open league on Oct. 13.

"The last couple of years that's been a game we really get up for," said La Cañada Coach Dan Yoder, whose Spartans were the Wildcats' greatest challenge in league last year, but Monrovia still won comfortably, 34-10. "We played them really tough last year, but the wheels fell off a little bit on a couple of our drives, but we've never had trouble with [getting up for Monrovia].

"Add that it's the league opener and I would say, for us, it's a good situation to start with Monrovia."

The biggest tests in league are being thrown at the Spartans in the first three weeks in 2011. The good news is with a few league wins under its belt, La Cañada could come into the final two weeks of the season controlling its own playoff destiny against San Marino and Blair — the fifth and sixth-place league teams from last year.

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Yoder, who's entering his third year coaching the Spartans, isn't taking 2010 into consideration this year, though.

"I don't look at it as we have easy ones at the end and hard ones at the beginning," Yoder said. "You can't overlook any opponent because you never know what kind of team they're going to field one year from another."

La Cañada hits the road to face South Pasadena — which lost out on a third-place league finish and playoff berth to La Cañada on a coin flip last year — on Oct. 21. La Cañada held off a last-minute Tigers drive to win, 28-21, on homecoming in 2010.

La Cañada will host Temple City, which captured second in league last year, on Oct. 28.

"Temple City is always strong and they still have some of those big horses up front [on the defensive line]," said Yoder; whose team lost to the Rams, 27-15, last year.

The Spartans face Blair, who they defeated 42-0 last year, and San Marino, who they beat 21-7 on Nov. 4 and 10, respectively, to close out the regular season.

"You can't look past anyone like that," Yoder said. "That's a big danger that teams face."

Before La Cañada starts league, the team will look to tune up its play in the nonleague portion of the schedule, which is identical to how it was last year. The Spartans will kick off their season on the road against Alhambra, which fell to La Cañada, 17-0, last year; on Sept. 9.

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