By Brandon HENSLEY
Coming off a productive summer, Head Coach Paul Schilling is confident about his Crescenta Valley High School varsity football team continuing its success this season. The Falcons once again competed in spring and summer passing tournaments, and Schilling said they won more games in those tournaments than they ever had.
“We had a phenomenal summer, and we were never really all together,” Schilling said, referring to some key players who either had minimal impact over the break or didn’t play at all.
Wide receiver Chase Walker was on the school baseball team, playing into the CIF quarterfinals when passing tournaments began, and when he joined the football team, a concussion early on had him take it easy the rest of the summer.
Quarterback Brain Gadsby, who led the Pacific League in passing yards last year, has also had several baseball commitments and hasn’t played football since last year. He is expected to start practice on Friday, Schilling said. In Gadsby’s place, junior Nelson Evan and sophomore Tyler Hill took snaps in practice and at tournaments.
Versatile running back/receiver Kyle Tavizon is no longer part of the team and is not expected to return. And last year’s seniors Austin Brines, Kevin Hello and Joe Torres are no longer in high school.
“Those guys were really mature,” Schilling said of last year’s seniors. “I’ve told our team that the [main] thing we have to worry about is making sure we get leadership from our younger guys … That’s what we’ll miss the most. We can replace guys physically, but those guys were really special because of their maturity.”
With that said, Schilling is still excited. The fifth-year head coach enjoyed a great regular season in 2013, as the Falcons went 8-2 while putting up gaudy offensive numbers. It came to a disappointing end, though. Crescenta Valley’s 5-2 finish in league was tied for third place. The team lost coin flips for automatic playoff berths, and the CIF took West Covina as an at-large bid instead of the Falcons in the Southeast Conference.
That sequence of events didn’t sit well with anyone in the program, least of Schilling. But if his returning players can stay healthy, the offense should once again be a problem for opposing defenses.
The Falcons’ first game is Sept. 4 against Verdugo Hills High School at 7 p.m. It is a home game for CV, and all home games are played at Glendale High School.
Last year, Gadsby threw for a shade under 2,500 yards with 33 touchdowns. Walker was third in league in receptions and yards. Jordon LoBianco, who transferred from Verdugo Hills last year, was fifth in receiving yards.
Connor Van Ginkel, an explosive receiver at 6’2″, only played five games due to injury but scored six touchdowns and amassed 509 yards on just 19 receptions, good for a 26.79 yard per reception average. Junior Bostin Lakin, who missed most of the year due also to injuries, will be counted on this season.
“The receiving corps is probably the best that I’ve seen in my 20 years up here at this school,” Schilling said. “That’s some pretty good talent. How are you going to play us? We’re hard to defend.”
Senior Jonathan Jun is entrenched as starting running back, with sophomore Brandon Beardt expected to back him up. Defensively, Schilling is still concerned about giving up too many big plays, which has plagued the team for several years, and also its ability to make tackles. The loss of Brines, a linebacker, and cornerback Hello, who led the league with five interceptions last year, will be a challenge.
Schilling said the Falcons have changed their scheme to include four down lineman and three linebackers. He’s counting on Matt Erickson, who can play linebacker or defensive end. Erickson was a second team All-League defensive choice in 2013, and had seven sacks.
“He’s a stud. He had a great year for us last year and hopefully he’ll be even better this year,” Schilling said.
Crescenta Valley still has senior Davo Hakobyan, arguably one the league’s best offensive and defensive lineman. He recorded 40 tackles and two sacks on the defensive line last year. He’ll be rejoined by Bryan Wong on both sides of the ball.
The Pacific wasn’t looked at as very strong last year, but Burbank and Muir each won two playoff games. West Covina, the team picked over the Falcons, lost its first round game.
Burbank will again be a favorite. The Bulldogs bring back quarterback Ryan Meredith (29 touchdowns, two interceptions last year) and running back James Williams (1,469 yards, 22 touchdowns). Pasadena, which won just one game in 2013, will start senior quarterback Jorge Reyna, a transfer from Downey. Reyna won a CIF championship with Downey two years ago.
“The league should be better from top to bottom this year,” Schilling said.
The Falcons will host a scrimmage Aug. 22 at 4 p.m. at Crescenta Valley High School against Monrovia.
For more information on the team, visit falconfootball.net.