They almost let big lead slip away, but get the road win in the end.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Second verse, same as the first. The Crescenta Valley Falcons varsity football team opened its season for the second straight time against the Santa Paula Cardinals, and for the second straight time it almost blew a big lead.
But even though this game wasn’t as high scoring as last year’s affair, the Falcons were able to come away with a season-opening, non-league victory.
They beat the Cardinals 26-21, traveling over an hour away to Santa Paula to do it, and mostly rode the legs of senior running back William Wang, who racked up 260 yards rushing and a touchdown. Wang showed signs of slowing down during the second half, but he more than did his part to lead his team.
“Toward the beginning I was really nervous … I was kind of shaking,” he said. “Second half, I got more relaxed.”
Wang has big shoes to fill. With last year’s running back Marro Lee gone, and junior quarterbacks Ben Rees and Joe Torres sharing time, a ton of the offense is going to go through him.
“We got a lot of things to work on,” Wang said, who also had an 83-yard touchdown run negated due to a holding penalty. “We have to get in shape more. I’m not going to lie, some of those runs, I could have broken off if I had more energy. So we’re all going to work on it this week for sure and play a much better game against San Marino.”
CV is at San Marino on Friday.
The Falcons (1-0) had a 26-7 lead in the second half, but their defense faltered late. It was reminiscent of the Santa Paula game last season. This time, an onside kick recovery late by Porter Hansen sealed the win for CV.
“It was really scary, because they’re explosive,” said CV Coach Paul Schilling. “Our thing with them is to contain them. Physically we’re much bigger and stronger, but those guys are quick, fast.”
Rees started for the Falcons, and his first completion went to wide receiver Jack Lutynski down the left sideline for 25 yards. Wang ran 19 yards for the first touchdown of the game, although CV botched the extra-point try.
Lutynski was the other main player of offense. He was the only wide receiver to catch a ball, with six receptions. When Rees was in, he stood in the pocket and continually looked for the 6-foot-3 Lutynski. His best pass was a 35-yard completion in the third quarter to a twisting Lutynski, who was double covered. Rees completed five of six passes.
Torres completed just one pass, though the offensive line seemed to falter more with him in the game. Torres showed more mobility than Rees, and eluded a couple of would-be sacks.
“First time for both ever playing varsity football, and it’s tough. They were bringing the house at them,” Schilling said.
CV led 12-0 at halftime, and in the third quarter Santa Paula’s offense decided to show up. Quarterback Christian Garcia put together a four-minute drive to open the half, and capped it off by throwing an 11-yard touchdown to Jesse Oboils.
It only took three plays on the Falcons’ next drive to score, with Rees sneaking in from a yard out, and the extra point made it 19-7. CV recovered a fumble on the Cardinals’ next drive. The Falcons forced four turnovers for the game (three fumbles, one interception) and didn’t commit any themselves.
At that point they looked in control, but in the fourth Santa Paula’s Daniel Khor returned a punt for a touchdown to make it 26-14 Falcons, and then the Cardinals recovered an onside kick with 5:05 remaining. Garcia ate up the Falcons on the next drive, going six-for-eight and throwing another score with 1:40 left to pull his team to within five points.
The Falcons denied the comeback though with Hansen’s subsequent onside recovery, and Wang had a 22-yard run to help run off the clock.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Wang said. “We have a couple sophomores starting on defense. We just have to be more disciplined.”
Penalties were a problem for CV, and Schilling acknowledged as much, as well as the need to keep getting in better condition as the season progresses.
“I felt like we were so close to taking care of business … and we made it ugly at the end,” he said.
The conditioning part goes for Wang as well, even if he was the star of the game, and figures to play perhaps the biggest role on offense.
“If he runs hard, he’s the next Zander,” said Schilling, in reference to former Burroughs standout Zander Anding. “That’s what we tease him about all the time, we say, ‘Hey, you want to be great, that’s what that guy did.’ So, he’s got to get in shape. He’s strong, he just got too winded.”