By Brandon HENSLEY
Brian Gadsby practiced with the Crescenta Valley High School football team last Friday. That might seem like a boring, unnecessary statement upon first glance. Yeah, why wouldn’t he be at practice? He’s the starting quarterback.
People around the football program know better.
Gadsby worried Coach Paul Schilling and his staff pretty much all year about his playing status. He wasn’t planning to return to the team for his senior season. He wasn’t going to build on a junior year that saw him throw 33 touchdowns to eight interceptions, compile 2,500 passing yards and orchestrate several thrilling comebacks that helped the Falcons win eight games while giving supporters hope that this season could be even better with fully healthy receivers Bostin Lakin and Connor Van Ginkel.
But anyone who knows about Gadsby know he’s a baseball guy first, and during last spring’s CIF playoff run with the CV baseball team, where Gadsby was the team’s ace pitcher, he had all but made up his mind to take the next football season off to concentrate on getting picked to pitch for the right college program.
As luck would have it, the right school for him – UCLA – came knocking earlier this year and Gadsby, who agreed to play for the Bruins in 2015, reconsidered his football option. He said he thought about it every day, weighing the pros and cons, and finally he reached the decision that just might help Crescenta Valley win the Pacific League title.
“Really, the only con I could think about was getting injured,” Gadsby said, who started playing tackle football when he was a freshman. “But when you think about it you can get injured doing anything, anywhere. The risk of injury shouldn’t stop anyone from playing sports.”
Gadsby took the field in helmet and pads last week after missing all of summer practice and tournaments, as well as the first week of school due to his commitment on the San Gabriel Valley All-Star baseball team, which wrapped up play in Washington State last week. Gadbsy pitched in the team’s semifinal 1-0 loss then headed back to football.
“He’s going to be rusty because he’s been gone … he hasn’t played football since the last game of the season last year,” said Schilling, who added that Gadsby is up for the challenge of not having anything handed to him.
The Falcons open the season Sept. 4 at Glendale High School against Verdugo Hills.
Schilling said one of the reasons Gadsby came back is because he relished the opportunity to earn his spot. He’s mainly competing with Tyler Hill, a sophomore who quarterbacked the Falcons in the spring and summer.
Gadsby met with Schilling and assistant coaches Dennis and Hudson Gossard earlier this month. They told him they were happy to have him back, but that he was going to have to work hard because of the time he missed. If you don’t earn it right away, they said, keep working until you do.
“It was a really good conversation. Brian is a competitor and he doesn’t want anything just handed to him,” Schilling said.
“I just consider myself another quarterback trying to earn a spot,” Gadsby said. “I knew before I talked to the coaches that I wasn’t going to be going out there saying, ‘Hey Coach, I’m ready. Put me in.’”
If Gadsby is able to regain his 2013 form early, it should be a foregone conclusion he’ll get the starting nod. The Falcons’ offense is expected to be one of best in league if not the best. Except for a dismal second half against Burroughs which gave them their first loss, the Falcons racked up enough yards and points last season that had people thinking it could do some damage in the playoffs.
That chance, of course, never came. CV was 8-2, and its 5-2 record in league tied them for third place. Coin flip losses kept them out of an automatic playoff bid, and the CIF took West Covina as the at-large team in the Southeast Conference, not Crescenta Valley. Gadsby said he came back in part to make a statement this season.
“My mindset right now is leave no doubt; do whatever you can to make it one hundred percent sure you’re going to win the game, make playoffs, do whatever you need to do,” he said.
“I want to win a league title. I want to win a CIF title.”
With seniors Chase Walker and Van Ginkel, and juniors Lakin and Jordan LoBianco, Schilling said he thinks this is best receiving corps he’s ever had as head coach. Gadsby said he’s excited to come back and work together with his longtime friends.
“I’ve known Chase and Connor since I was 5 years old,” he said. “I played Sunland flag football with Jordan when he was the quarterback and I was the receiver. Most of the guys on the team I have pretty strong bonds with.”
Some prognosticators say the Falcons’ playoff hopes hinge on Gadsby. That’s a lot of pressure, and he’s felt it all year from various people to come back, including his teammates. But just like when he’s on the mound or in the pocket, it seems Gadsby can’t be shaken.
“I made sure that if I was going to play it was going to be one hundred percent me and not anyone else wanting me to,” he said.