Kate Hansen mania, World Cup fever, big news for Special Olympics and … oh yeah, that Falcon football team.
It was all part of a memorable year in sports for the Crescenta Valley area.
By Brandon HENSLEY
St. Francis soccer coach Glen Appels won his 400th game on Jan. 15, beating Crespi 2-1 for the Golden Knights’ first Mission League victory of the season. Appels also coaches for the Crescenta Valley Soccer Club. His 25-year resume includes CIF Division championships as well as league titles.
Longtime area football coach John Brinton, who passed away in late December 2013, was remembered in January as a man whose intimidating demeanor often belied his passion and caring nature for helping teenagers learn the game of football. At 6’5″, Brinton’s presence was large, both figuratively and literally. His sister, Angela Collins, said his deep voice matched his size. “When you heard him talk you’d be like, ‘Whoa, what was that?’” Collins said. “He was a larger-than-life kind of man.” Brinton was 58.
The Falcons boys’ basketball team was left without one of its most talented and versatile players when forward Kevin Dinges abruptly left the team and the school. Without Dinges, the Falcons carried on and, with solid wins over Muir and Burbank, jumped out to a 3-1 start in the Pacific League.
Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer had a rough start to the league season, but a dominant 6-1 over Hoover, which improved CV’s record to 4-2, helped erase the defeats of earlier losses to Burroughs and Pasadena from their collective memories. “We expect a lot of ourselves,” said Coach Grant Clark. “The style that we played last week wasn’t good enough, and we need to get back to where we feel we need to be.”
There was no repeat. The Crescenta Valley High School girls’ water polo team was denied a chance at its second straight CIF Division V championship when the Lady Falcons were eliminated by the Warren Bears in the semifinal round 16-9 at Whittier College. The Falcons had won its first two playoff games over Downey and Temescal Canyon. One more win and Coach Brent Danna’s team would have been going to Irvine to play for another championship, which the Falcons won in 2013 over Poly Riverside, the program’s first ever CIF title.
Rosemont Middle School’s flag football team defeated Roosevelt 8-6 on Feb. 20, claiming a share of the district championship and making it the second straight title for the Spartans. The only score for Rosemont came when quarterback Jake Schaffer connected with wingback Colin Jacobs from about 30 yards for the touchdown. On the ensuing two-point conversion it was Schaffer to Brian Erickson for a successful play, and that was the difference.
The Crescenta Valley boys’ basketball team did something it hadn’t done in a decade: win a Pacific League championship. After its win over Arcadia on the final day of the season, the boys, led by Eric Patten, Eric Bae and Berj Krikorian, celebrated on the Apaches’ home floor. CV finished the regular season 12-2, and 20-8 overall.
The girls’ team also won 20 games, and was led by senior guard Ella Stepanian. The Lady Falcons went 11-3 in league, second behind Burroughs. Sophomore center Alisa Shinn had a breakout season and will be counted on heavily during the 2015 campaign.
The CV boys’ soccer team finished a successful year, going 22-5-3. The Falcons won their wild card playoff game over Highland, but lost the next game to Valencia.
Olympian Kate Hansen held an autograph session for fans at the Crescenta-Cañada Y, and afterward was supposed to emcee the championship game of adult dodge ball league. Instead, halfway through a dominating performance by the younger Ball Stars, she joined in to enthusiastic applause by the crowd to help the struggling Motley Dodgers. It didn’t go so well. The first two games she competed in saw her get thrown out in the opening seconds. She managed to throw some people out in later games, but it hardly mattered; the Ball Stars walked away as champs, winning five games to two.
The entire foothills went Hansen crazy in early 2014. The 21-year-old La Cañada native competed in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as a luger, and placed 10th. While overseas, she participated in a prank with Jimmy Kimmel on his late night show, and video of her dancing to Beyoncé went viral. Assemblyman Mike Gatto and the California Legislative Women’s Caucus honored Olympian Kate Hansen in March at the Woman of the Year awards ceremony at the State Capitol in Sacramento. “It makes me happy that so many people are interested in my story, so that’s really cool,” she said. “Hometown pride, always.”
Finally, they were able to play ball. Both the Crescenta Valley and La Cañada high school baseball teams opened their seasons on March 4 at Stengel Field and, while the rain was gone, the floodgates were open for the Falcons as they cruised to a 19-0 win. Players said they were excited to start the season, which was originally scheduled for the week prior, before the harsh weather came.
In water polo, CV senior two-meter player Elissa Arnold earned Pacific League Player of the Year honors. She scored 92 goals and led the Falcons to a fifth straight league title.
Eric Patten, the senior center for the surprising Falcons boys’ basketball team, was named the Pacific League’s co-Player of the Year along with Pasadena’s Ajon Efferson. Patten averaged 18.8 points and 13.3 rebounds this season, including 1.6 blocks. Head Coach Shawn Zargarian earned honors as the league’s Coach of the Year, and senior guard Eric Bae, who was relied upon for outside shooting and tough defense, was named to the All-League first team.
In girls’ basketball, Falcons’ senior guard Ella Stepanian was voted as the Pacific League Player of the Year. Stepanian excelled this season after she missed her entire junior year with a torn ACL in her right knee, and led Crescenta Valley to a second-place finish in league with an 11-3 record, 20-9 overall.
The Crescenta Valley High School reigning champion cycling team finished in second place at the SoCal High School Cycling League’s five-race series. Last year, CV won its first ever championship in northern California. This year, the winner for the SoCal league was Rim of the World High School, which ended up with 10,631 points. CV finished with a close 10,630 points. The coach of the CV team, Jim Rowton, said it was challenging to try to win two years in a row. “The level of competition is extremely high,” Rowton said. “It’s very difficult to win back-to-back.”
Crescenta Valley High School alumnus Trevor Bell was named to the Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Day roster as a reliever. A rash of early season injuries opened a roster spot in the team’s bullpen, giving Bell an opportunity to solidify his place on a team that hopes to make a deep postseason run. The 27-year-old right-hander broke camp with the team after a strong spring training performance, where he allowed only one run over 8.2 innings pitched and struck out 11 batters.
Shaky infield defense led to a Pacific League-opening 3-0 loss to Pasadena for the Falcons’ baseball team. At the time, CV’s record dropped to 7-7. The team would not lose again for the rest of the regular season.
CV’s Hannah Cookson was on fire in an early April softball game against Glendale. The senior right fielder was three-for-three against Glendale pitcher Jordan Lousararian, including two home runs, one of them a grand slam, driving in a whopping seven runs. She battled a minor sickness that week, and said her focus was mostly on that instead of the game. “I was kind of not focused because I’m sick, so I think that worked out well,” she said. CV won the game, 10-0.
The CV softball team ended its season with a 5-0 loss up north to Righetti in the first round of the CIF playoffs. The girls did win their wild card game before that, which was held at CV’s field. The 6-3 win over Sonora gave seniors Hannah Cookson, Taylor Hill, Olivia Thayer and Chloe Fairbrother a nice farewell in front of their home fans. Junior shortstop Hailey Cookson, who will be expected to shoulder most of the load this season, hit two home runs in the game.
The CV baseball team won another Pacific League title, finishing the regular season 19-7-1. The team was led by senior center fielder Bryan Wang, third basemen Joe Torres and big hitter Michael Russo. On the mound, the Falcons had great pitching all year with players like Jimmy Smiley, Tanner Carrico and Brian Gadsby.
The baseball team wasn’t done once the regular season ended, though. The Falcons advanced to the CIF quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, just two wins shy of a championship. They beat Damien in the first round and then got by Redlands East Valley, even after Gadsby gave up two early runs. But CV fell in the next game at Valencia of Placentia by a score of 8-2. The Falcons led the Tigers 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, but a couple of errors and some unlucky bounces gave the Tigers six runs in that frame, which spelled doom for starting pitcher Tanner Carrico and his teammates.
In track and field, CV runner Megan Melnyk had a great season. Melnyk was the team’s lone qualifier for the Masters Meet at Cerritos College at the end of the year. She placed ninth in the 800m (2:13.71) and would not be moving forward to the state competition. “I wish I could have had a stronger finish,” said Melnyk about the race. “[Coach Mark] Evans and I had talked about how the pace would be quick and how I would need to just stay with the pack.”
Flintridge Prep brothers Barrett and Gareth Weiss had dominant years in Division V track and field and participated in CIF State Championships at Buchanan High School. Neither brother qualified for the second day’s competition in the pole vault, though. Barrett placed 17th on the first day, clearing 14-3, and Gareth placed 19th, also clearing the same height. “Barrett and Gareth both had incredible finishes to their seasons,” said Coach Nick Ponticello. “It was really a season bonus for them that they got to compete at state – totally unexpected for all of us.”
The 1998 CIF Championship baseball team for the Crescenta Valley Falcons was honored at the Chevy Chase Country Club. Eight new members were also inducted into the Crescenta Valley Athletic Hall of Fame: football player Hudson Gossard, baseball player Trevor Bell, basketball player Brock Jacobsen, aquatic members John Jenkins and Pete Loporchio, gymnast Wendy Cohen, softball player Lisa Erickson and runner Jeff Holyfield.
Fans in Southern California felt blue for most of the baseball season. Except for several prime time games which aired on ESPN or Fox, fans of the Los Angeles couldn’t watch the team all season long because of a dispute between Time Warner Cable, which owns the broadcast rights, and cable providers such as DirecTV, which didn’t want to pay the cost to make games available to subscribers. The Dodgers led the league in attendance and made the playoffs, but lost in the first round to the St. Louis Cardinals. The TV dispute is ongoing.
Brent Danna, who coached the CV girls’ water polo team to its 2013 CIF title, was hired by Los Alamitos as its boys’ water polo coach. Danna was also hired as a social science teacher at the Sunset League school.
Local hockey fans celebrated as the Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years. Alec Martinez’s goal in double overtime against the New York Rangers won the series and the Cup, capping off a memorable playoff season for the Kings. The team overcame a 3-0 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks in Round 1, beat SoCal rival Anaheim Ducks in Round 2, and then avenged last year’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference finals by winning a thrilling seven-game series, one in which Martinez was also the hero as well, scoring the winning goal in overtime.
The second annual Midnight Mission run/walk was held on June 22, and offered an opportunity to keep in shape, but also served a greater purpose. The Midnight Mission is an organization that offers all types of aid to community members living in homelessness or severe poverty. The walk/run, which featured over 600 participants, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Mission. “Unfortunately this is an increasing problem but, with the community’s efforts and support, we have been able to meet that need,” said Midnight Mission President Larry Adamson who attended the event to cheer on participants.
The Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) Summer Games were held at USC and featured 1,200 athletes from Special Olympics Southern California, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, Egypt, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Macau, Mexico, Nippon (Japan), Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Athletes competed in bocce, basketball, aquatics, gymnastics, athletics (track & field) and golf at various venues on the USC campus and Griffith Park (golf).
World Cup fever came to the foothills. As the U.S. team put together a nice run in Brazil, local sports bars and restaurants saw an uptick in business, thanks in part to AYSO Region 88, which held a fundraiser for its program during the World Cup at Leo’s All-Star Bar & Grill. “We wanted to make it a kick-off thing for the World Cup … whatever it takes to get people interested and coming out and supporting the program,” said AYSO president Aldo Mascheroni. AYSO then packed Straw Hat Pizza for the final game between Germany and Argentina. “We try to help out both places because both places are supporters of our program,” Mascheroni said of Leo’s and Straw Hat.
TV ratings in America were excellent for the World Cup. Neilson ratings showed an average of 16.49 million people watched USA-Belgium on ESPN. It was the second highest rated men’s WC match in this country’s history. The most-watched was USA-Portugal in June (18.2 million).
The city of Glendale and the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games announced their partnership during a press conference at the Americana on Brand on July 17. Glendale is one of 50 cities that will host the summer games in Los Angeles; by July 2015 there will be over 100 partner cities stretching from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. The announcement of Glendale as a host town has great meaning to Games CEO Pat McClenahan, who was born and raised in Glendale, where he met his wife Karren and raised their two children. Their daughter Kelly, 27, went through the special education program in GUSD. “The host town program is an exciting way for Southern California locals to open our doors and show the athletes and coaches from around the world our hospitality and our culture,” McClenahan said.
Elementary schooler Advait Kartik gained notoriety last summer for his accomplishments in racquetball. The 9-year-old won the Under-8 category in the national championships in May, held in Fullerton. Then in the summer he went to Colorado to compete in the Junior Olympics, and is now ranked fourth in the nation. The multi-talented Kartik, who is also a black belt in tae-kwon-do, impressed his coach Debra Moore, a former national player, when he was only 6. “When his dad brought him in and he took a few shots, I thought right away, ‘Oh this kid’s pretty good,’” she said.
Girls’ lacrosse will open its first season this spring at Crescenta Valley High School, and the school’s first ever tryouts were held in August at Rosemont Middle School. The two-day skills clinic and try-out saw upwards of almost 30 girls come out, most of them new to the sport.”We were very pleasantly surprised by that. We were hoping for around 20 [girls],” said Coach Boz Crowther, whose daughter is sophomore Leah, a team captain who played lacrosse when Crowther was coaching at Rosemont. Assistant coach Eitye Shecklow’s daughter Abby, another sophomore, is also a team captain. “They went a lot better than expected,” Shecklow said of the tryouts. “It was a fantastic turnout as far as we’re concerned.”
CV football quarterback Brain Gadsby told his coaches he would return to the team for his senior season, much to the relief of everyone in the program. Gadsby, who enjoyed great success his junior season, had been on the fence about returning. His main sport is baseball, and he worried about injury on the football field as well as trying to find a college to pitch for. But in the summer he committed to UCLA, and will be on the mound for the Bruins next year. Gadsby said he wanted to “leave no doubt” that the football team could compete against anyone now that he was back. In a few months, he and his team would live up to that promise.
St. Francis High School announced that Terry Phillips had been hired as the school’s new head baseball coach effective Aug. 21. Coach Phillips was selected from amongst a group of extremely well qualified candidates to lead the St. Francis baseball program starting in the 2014-15 season. Phillips arrives at St. Francis from Occidental College in Eagle Rock where he served as an assistant coach since 2010. During the past four years he also worked as a head coach with the Toluca Lake baseball program.
In baseball, the San Gabriel Valley Babe Ruth 16-18 All-Stars, which included several Crescenta Valley and Glendale Community College players, made quite the run in its quest for its first World Series win since 2007. The team was led by CVHS coach Phil Torres, and made it to the semifinal game in Washington State before losing to Klamath Falls, 1-0. Pitcher Brian Gadsby threw 14 innings in the World Series and gave up just one run.
One Saturday night in August featured a premium boxing event in Glendale, only the fifth since 2010, to a packed house at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. The Civic bore witness to a full card of bouts billed as “Glendale Fight Night.” The Glendale City Council lifted a 62-year ban on the sport, and the main event pitted super featherweights Jose Felix Jr. vs. Alejandro Rodriguez, two accomplished young fighters with 47 combined wins between them, including 33 by knockout. Despite Felix Jr. drawing blood from Rodriguez in the third round, the bout remained close and competitive throughout, looking quite capable of going the full eight rounds. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he suffered a right hand injury in the seventh, and the fight was called, securing a technical knockout victory for Felix Jr.
The CV High football team marched out to a 3-0 non-league record behind a surprising defense and a high-powered offense. The team beat Verdugo Hills, Golden Valley and La Cañada, but the fourth game of the season was the one Falcons coaches were amped up for. That game was against Burroughs, the team that gave the Falcons a heartbreaking loss in 2013. The Indians were also riding a five-game winning streak against CV, something Falcons Coach Schilling kept reminding media about. But CV came to play against Burroughs, winning 48-21. Running back Jonathan Jun rushed for 210 yards on 33 carries.
St. Francis football was 4-0 heading into October after defeating Canyon 49-32 in late September. Quarterback Jeremiah Martin continued his solid season with 19-of-27 passes completed for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Collectively, the team racked up 200 rushing yards.
The Falcons hosted the first Pacific League cross-country meet of the season at CV Park. For the boys, Arcadia came out on top, followed by Burbank and the CV. For the girls, it was the same result in that order. The Lady Falcons had quality runners this season in Megan Melnyk and Haley Witzeman.
CVHS boys’ water polo started a season that would see the team reach many highs. Under Coach Jan Sakonju, the Falcons went 20-9 overall and 7-1 in the Pacific League. Junior goalkeeper Logan Goddard and junior hole/set Vasil Halchev nabbed All-CIF first team honors this year. Diego Delgado of Flintridge Prep and CV’s Griffin Harting were named to the second team. The Falcons’ Trevor Goddard was named to the third team.
Chase Walker made a highlight-worthy catch against Hoover at CV’s homecoming football game. So worthy, in fact, it didn’t just end up on local news, it ended up on ESPN’s flagship program “SportsCenter,” during its Top-10 Plays of the Day segment. Walker hauled a touchdown catch behind the defender’s back, rolled around on the ground and maintained possession for the most impressive play in a most impressive season. The players were at the homecoming dance when they found out. Walker’s text message to Coach Paul Schilling was, “That is so sick coach!!!”
Glendale Community College again honored past athletes at its annual Hall of Fame dinner held on the college campus. Recognized for their success and achievement was the outstanding 1974 state cross-country championship team and their devoted coaches John Tansley and Mark Covert. Honoree Robert Thomas was one of the most successful distance runners in the community at the time. “I found that my coaches John Tansley and Mark Covert personally cared about each of their athletes,” Thomas reflected. “It wasn’t just a job for them; it was an opportunity to make a difference in their athletes’ lives.”
For the first time in Brent Ballard’s four years as coach at Rosemont Middle School, his basketball team was not the best. That title now belonged to the Wilson Knights, who beat the Spartans 46-37 at Wilson Middle School on Oct. 30 to capture the league championship in the season finale. It was Wilson’s second win over Rosemont this season. The boys were led this season by Max Blessinger, Jonathan Lee, Alex Zohouralen and seventh grader Tyler Carlson, who became the first seventh grade player to make Ballard’s starting five at Rosemont. The Rosemont girls fared better, winning the league championship again with a perfect 6-0 record. They were led by Coach Chris Bouchard and players Caity Bouchard, Destiny Gilliand and Denise Dayag.
The final regular season games of the high school football season saw both Crescenta Valley and St. Francis finish with undefeated records at 10-0. For the Falcons, they barely missed the postseason in 2013 after finishing 8-2, so their 2014 performance certainly held some vindication, and they were awarded the fourth-seed in the CIF Southeast Section.
The Golden Knights were led by senior quarterback Jeremiah Martin, who passed for over 2,800 yards and threw 34 touchdowns to two interceptions. Division I recruit Dylan Crawford had over 1,000 yards receiving, and running back Areg Nazarian had over 1,100 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns. The Knights won a league championship for the first time since 1997, and were favored in the Southeast playoffs. The team was a second round victory away from facing the Falcons in the semifinals, but St. Francis went down to La Serna 38-35.
The Falcons kept their winning ways going all through November. They dispatched Harvard-Westlake in the first round, beat up on Paramount in the quarterfinals, and then pulled out a thriller in the semifinals against La Serna, the reigning section champions. Down 36-35 with less than three minutes to go, the Falcons went 70 yards in two minutes and scored when quarterback Brain Gadsby took the ball in himself from two yards out. CV won 41-36. The Falcons hadn’t been to the semifinals since 1992, and now they would have a chance to win their first CIF title since 1973.
The Flintridge Prep girls’ cross-country team held off rival Mayfield Senior School and won its second straight CIF Southern Section Division V title on Saturday morning at Mount San Antonio College. Joining the Prep girls in the winner’s circle was Rebels junior Jack Van Scoter, who won the Division V individual title. Van Scoter became the second consecutive Flintridge Prep boys’ individual champion. As a team, the short-handed Rebels placed second and came up short of repeating as Southern Section champs. The Crescenta Valley boys’ squad failed to advance to state, finishing eighth in Division I, missing advancement by one point with 216 points to seventh-place Warren’s 215.
The wait was over. After 41 years, the Crescenta Valley High School football team won another CIF championship. Back in 1973, it was for Division AAA. This time, it was the Southeast Division. The Falcons defeated Downey 21-14 on Dec. 5 at Glendale High School. Brian Gadsby connected with Jordan LoBianco for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter and that score was the difference. Matt Erickson made the tackle of the game, stopping Downey on a fourth-and-2 play with less than two minutes remaining to seal the victory. Aside from claiming a CIF championship, the Falcons proved critics wrong and won the Pacific League title, finishing the regular season 10-0. Four wins later, and this squad accomplished something no CV football team ever did: an undefeated championship season. “It had been so long since we made a deep run,” said assistant coach Hudson Gossard. “This to me is just unimaginable that we can call ourselves the CIF champions. We get to put a banner up in our gym. These kids will live as legends for the rest of their lives.”
Accolades for the CV football team came in waves. Gadsby (3780 yards passing) was voted Pacific League offensive player of the year. Jordan LoBianco (nine interceptions) was voted League MVP. LoBianco had 262 return yards on those interceptions. He scored eight touchdowns on offense, and three punt return touchdowns. Erickson and Sean Blocks were named co-Defensive Players of the Year, and two-way player Davo Hakobyan was named lineman of the year.
Both soccer teams for Crescenta Valley High School began to adjust to the new season, including practicing in heavy rain. For the boys, coached by Grant Clark, they were 3-2 heading into the winter break. For the girls, it will be a slight change in coaching this year, as former Head Coach Jorden Schulz will be an assistant so as to devote more time to being a mother of two. Assistant Tyraysha Peterson will now step into the role of head coach and, with a young team led by Grace Keller, will once again look to compete in the Pacific League.
Photos by Jason BALLARD, Leonard COUTIN, Brandon HENSLEY and Dan HOLM