By Brandon HENSLEY
It may not have been the prettiest start to a season, but once the Crescenta Valley High School football team shook off the rust, the 2014 opener against non-league opponent Verdugo Hills looked eerily similar to the opener in 2013.
In that game, the Falcons went on the road to Verdugo Hills and crushed the Dons 54-20 behind six touchdown passes from quarterback Brian Gadsby. Last week’s game at Glendale High School saw Crescenta Valley once again blow out the Dons, 55-14, as CV demonstrated that its offense is one to be feared this season, both in the air and on the ground. Gadsby threw for three scores in this one, two to Chase Walker and one to Connor Van Ginkel, who racked up 169 yards on nine catches.
The Falcons will go on the road Friday night to Santa Clarita and face the Golden Valley Grizzlies, who are 1-1 so far. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Winning the game against the Dons wasn’t a surprise for Crescenta Valley. How it started perhaps was. Two plays into the season, Gadsby fumbled the snap and the Dons recovered the ball. No team scored in the first quarter, and with the Falcons leading 7-0 in the second, Gadsby overthrew Walker and was intercepted.
Things settled down from there. Here are the positives going into the Golden Valley game:
Gadsby got hot and was on cruise control in the second half, one in which the Falcons outscored Verdugo 41-14. The senior signal caller was 23-for-36 with 326 yards on the night. On CV’s first three drives in the half, Gadsby was eight-for-12 for 99 yards, with two TD throws and a scoring run. He looked as good as he did last season, which may be a bit of a surprise considering he hadn’t thrown a football for 10 months until August because of baseball commitments.
You can’t have big passing numbers if the other guys can’t catch the ball, and the duo of Walker and Van Ginkel didn’t disappoint. Walker is the biggest target on the field and is key on third downs or plays around the goal line (his two scores were around the south pylon on the far end zone), and Van Ginkel can outrun almost anyone. Most of Gadsby’s completions were to those guys, but if teams are going to try and stop them, look for Bostin Lakin and Robbie Benson to get more looks. The Falcons have major depth at receiver.
Running back Jonathan Jun had 78 yards on 11 carries. He also caught four balls for 29 yards. Jun has the speed and agility to be that kind of threat all season. The Falcons used to rely heavily on the running game, with Marro Lee and William Wang in years past. Now that the passing game is the team’s biggest asset, Jun could surprise a lot of opponents if they overlook him in their game plan.
Defensively, it’s going to be hard to replace last year’s seniors Kevin Hello and Austin Brines, but Matt Erickson is going to do his best. The senior linebacker was everywhere against Verdugo, leading the team with 17 tackles and a fumble recovery. Expect to hear his name called many more times from the PA announcers every Friday night. Sophomore Tyler Hill had 15 tackles, continuing his progression from a successful freshman campaign.
Defensive back Jordan LoBianco had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. He played great against his man Jacob Moore (two catches for 18 yards). In fact, the pass defense was stellar all-around. Verdugo Hills used two quarterbacks in Jaciel Oviedo and Carter Otte, and together they managed just 10 completions for less than 60 yards.
Here are some things for the Falcons to straighten out:
The kickoff coverage was suspect. Verdugo Hills had returns of 62 yards and 100 yards, the latter of which was a touchdown. In a close game, it would be deflating for the offense to score only to have the kickoff coverage give it back seconds later.
Gadsby had three turnovers, an interception and two fumbles. One of those fumbles came on a sack, and seeing Gadsby go down is rare because he usually has good pocket awareness and a quick release.
While the pass coverage was solid, Verdugo’s quarterbacks were able to take off and scramble for sizable gains. It didn’t end up hurting Crescenta Valley, but against teams with speedy, athletic quarterbacks and running backs, the play is never over until the whistle blows. The Falcons are going to have to be disciplined when they face teams like Burbank and Muir when the Pacific League games start up.