By Brandon HENSLEY
he Falcons got a big monkey off their back last week, and now they’ll deal with some formidable-sized Bulldogs on Friday.
The Crescenta Valley High School football team passed their biggest test of the season Sept. 26 against the Burroughs Indians in the Pacific League opener 48-21, receiving a big boost from running back Jonathan Jun and once again establishing itself as a very good, if not great, defensive team.
Coach Paul Schilling, whose team moved to 4-0 for the second straight year, was quick to magnify the Burroughs win when asked about its importance.
“Huge. We were 0-5 the last five years we played them. I don’t want to bad mouth the other coaches in the Pacific League, but that group of coaches, they’re damn good,” he said, referring to Coach Keith Knoop and his staff. “If they’re not the best, they’re right there. They’re amazing and every year they play us so tough, even if we think we have better personnel. “
Burroughs dropped to 2-2. Along with CV, Arcadia, Burbank and Muir opened league with victories, though Crescenta Valley is the only undefeated team overall.
Quarterback Brian Gadsby’s duties were slightly diminished against Burroughs, maybe in part due to his four interceptions he threw Sept. 19 against La Cañada, but definitely in part because Jun was able to run up the middle all game for sizable gains. Jun rushed for 210 yards on 33 carries and four touchdowns, taking advantage of what Schilling said was a scheme by Burroughs that feared Gadsby’s arm more than Jun’s legs.
Which, of course, is what most teams are probably still thinking of doing. Gadsby puts up huge numbers almost every week. His line last week was solid (16 for 25, 255 yards and three touchdowns) including three deep completions to Connor Van Ginkel and Chase Walker, two of which went for scores. The Van Ginkel score was a trick play that included a pitch-back from Robbie Benson.
But the game felt like it belonged to Jun, who said he was “gassed out” when he walked off the field to congratulations from parents. Jun’s previous high for carries this season was 17 in Week 2. The emergence of Jun could be trouble for opposing teams who see Crescenta Valley as just a passing team.
“Now what are you going to do to play us, to defend us?” Schilling said. “JJ had 199 yards. So, you’re going to play us to pass, play us to run? That’s what’s going to make Brian even deadlier, if they can’t [focus on just him]. Because that’s what Burroughs did; they spread everybody out [to play the pass].”
As an example of that versatility, the Falcons’ first drive of the game was for 80 yards and took six minutes off the clock. It included six run plays for Jun and ended with a 15-yard touchdown reception to Jordan LoBianco.
Defensively, it was another stellar effort. Burroughs put up okay numbers: 87 yards rushing and 218 yards passing with three touchdowns, which included a 53-yard strike at the end of the first half from quarterback Andy Amela to receiver Erik Hernandez, who beat LoBianco and brought the score to 21-14.
But then again, LoBianco recorded another interception, his third of the season, as did Andrew Traber and Sean Bloks (Bloks also had a game-high 17 tackles).
Burroughs’ last score came late in the third quarter, but that was during a point in the game when both sides seemed perplexed about how many penalties were being called. Eventually a couple of turnovers were exchanged, a pass interference was called on CV and, on fourth down inside the red zone, Burroughs’ Aiden Anding caught a touchdown pass to bring the score to 35-21.
That score couldn’t really be pinned on the Falcons’ defense, so the 21 points allowed wasn’t as bad as the score indicated. Then again, if CV is going to give up just 21 points a game, that would seem to be plenty considering how potent the offense is.
Without hesitation and with a confident tone, Schilling said his defense is good. But they lost several key guys from last year, and that defense wasn’t what you could call great.
“We did,” he acknowledged, “but the guys who are back, who were good last year, are just even better, and the guys [who replaced them] have done a good job filling in.” He pointed out Matt Erickson (“flat-out beast”), junior lineman Colin Caver, who started almost every game as a sophomore, and returning starters Ty Hill and LoBianco.
“We have a lot of physical guys,” Schilling said. “We’re not always that physical. That’s how [Burroughs beat] us in the past, and tonight we were physical.”
So it’s Burbank this week at Burroughs High School at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs are considered one of the top teams in league. Running back James Williams, who has committed to play for Washington State next season, is out for the season with a knee injury. He has been replaced by Tony Toledo, who had 431 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (3-1) are averaging 24 points a contest. The Falcons are giving up just 15 points a game. Last year at CV’s homecoming game, Gadsby found Walker in the back of the end zone to pull out a thrilling 48-47 overtime win. Schilling knows this game is just as important. It would appear Burbank and Muir high schools are the biggest potential stumbling blocks, so if Crescenta Valley can get past this week, things will set up real nice from now until early November.
“I don’t want them to think that this is the peak,” Schilling said of his players. “We have bigger things to do.”