The Falcons set out to rebound from a heartbreaking last season to prove this time around they belonged with the elite. That proof now lies in the form of a 2014 CIF championship.
By Brandon HENSLEY
From indecision to leaving no doubt.
That’s what went through the mind of Brian Gadsby over the course of this year. The senior quarterback was initially not going to return to the Crescenta Valley High School football team, instead focusing on his burgeoning baseball career as a pitcher. His plan was to take these fall months to sharpen his game on the mound and not worry about getting smashed on the gridiron.
In the summer, that all changed. Gadsby committed to the UCLA baseball team for next year, and reconsidered the risks and rewards of playing football. He was a leader of a team that went 8-2 last year but the Falcons were the odd-team out of the playoffs in the Pacific League. They lost several tie-breaking coin flips for an automatic bid, and CIF passed them over as an at-large bid, choosing West Covina instead.
With 25 players returning, though, there was a good chance this team could be even better.
But that hinged on Gadsby. In August he told Coach Paul Schilling he wanted to come back, and he would go through the necessary steps to reclaim his starting role. After the hard feelings of 2013, Gadsby said he wanted to “leave no doubt” in people’s minds this year they were worthy players in not only league but in the Southeast Division.
On Dec. 6 at the Montrose Christmas Parade, Gadsby stood in the back of the first of two trucks that held each member of the football team riding down Honolulu Avenue. His raised his arms and acknowledged the crowd cheering for his CIF Southeast Section Division champion Falcons.
Gadsby’s team mostly blazed through the year, including a league title and a 14-0 record. There was no uncertainty from anyone this time.
“I knew if I didn’t play I’d be missing out like crazy,” he said. “I’m really happy I made the decision to stay and I’m really happy the coaches and players took me back in.”
From brain surgery to gridiron glory
A year ago this week, junior Bostin Lakin faced the biggest obstacle of his life, and he was nowhere near a football field.
Lakin had suffered a seizure his sophomore season, and an MRI confirmed the cause was an abnormal cluster of blood vessels on his brain.
The options were either medication for the rest of his life or surgery.
Lakin said he easily chose the surgery in hopes of playing again, and it worked. Six months later Lakin was cleared to play. He was a valuable two-way player this season, and in the playoffs he made big plays in big moments. His interception in the third quarter of CV’s first round playoff game against Harvard-Westlake helped turn a tight contest into a comfortable victory.
The biggest catch on the last drive of the semifinal game was Lakin’s. He caught Gadsby’s 15-yard throw near the goal line. The crowd exploded, thinking it was a touchdown. Officials marked his leaping grab down at the 1-yard line. No matter; the Falcons scored two plays later, and moved on to the finals.
“Maybe the best hands of all of our receivers,” Schilling said of Lakin. “And he’s strong … he plays defense just like [much publicized cornerback Jordan LoBianco]. He was our final little piece defensively.”
After the clinching game against Downey, Lakin took pictures with classmates on the field, his giant mop of hair sweaty but still wild as ever. He said he barely slept the night before; one wondered whether he could sleep at all after what he’s been through.
“It’s so crazy. I never thought I could be in this position ever again,” he said. “It’s so cool that I got to do this now and be here. It’s awesome.”
From 1973 to now
Dennis Gossard was in his mid-20s and a first-year varsity assistant coach for Gordy Warnock when the Crescenta Valley Falcons won the CIF Division-AAA championship.
It took the program 41 years to win another one.
“We knew this team was going to be good,” he said. “But did we think we would be here? We didn’t think that in ’73. We just kept winning games and we were CIF champions. Same thing with this team; we knew we’d be good, but how good we didn’t know.”
Gossard, now in his 60s, reveled in all that surrounded him as his Falcons celebrated at Moyse Field after the championship win – media, parents, players and, most of all, his family.
Gossard coaches the Falcons’ defense, which held Downey’s high-powered rushing attack just enough in check, and allowed the Vikings just 14 points. He also coaches with his son Hudson, a 2002 CV graduate who played quarterback for the team. Hudson runs the offense and while it hasn’t always been a smooth ride (this was CV’s first playoff appearance since 2011) it certainly was a sight to behold this year, as the Falcons didn’t just beat opponents; by the third quarter in most games, it was a blowout.
That’s due in large part to the father-son duo, Dennis and Hudson.
“You’ve just won the CIF championship,” Gossard said, describing himself. “You coach with your son. Your daughter is here, your grandchildren are here. You wife is here, your brother’s here. It can’t get better than this. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”