CV football will take on Muir for the right to be atop the league standings with two games left. The return of Connor Van Ginkel provides a big boost going forward.
By Brandon HENSLEY
“Welcome back, Kotter” may be a little better known, but around Crescenta Valley High School, “Welcome back, Connor” will suffice quite nicely.
Connor Van Ginkel, the junior receiver who had been out since the first quarter of Week 2, returned to action last Friday and helped the Falcon football team beat Hoover High School to improve the team’s record to 7-1 overall (4-1 in the Pacific League).
“Helping” might be too strong of a word. CV won the game 56-16, turning in a dominant performance that was pretty much to be expected, seeing as how Hoover lost the previous game 69-0 against Burroughs.
Van Ginkel caught three passes from quarterback Brian Gadsby in one half of play, and they went for a whopping 147 yards and two touchdowns. He broke his collarbone Sept. 12 against San Marino and was forced to watch from the sideline week after week as his team piled up impressive wins such as the much-talked about homecoming game, an overtime win over Burbank on Oct. 11.
“Feeling great,” Van Ginkel said, who reported no problems after the game. “It felt good to go out and play. Full-speed is always good.” He was in a sling for weeks after the injury, and couldn’t run for a while. It took some time to get back into shape, he said. After some physical therapy, he got the okay to play again last week.
“It was hard to get back into shape, especially after six weeks,” he said. “But I got myself back and I’m feeling good.”
“Having him back is awesome,” said senior Kevin Hello. “He’s a key asset to us. Our offense is going to get better as a whole.”
Head Coach Paul Schilling said Van Ginkel was going to play only one half even if was a close game, but was happy to get him in there as a “warm-up,” he said, so he can be more prepared for this week.
“He’s tall, he’s a big target, and he’s fast,” Schilling said of Van Ginkel.
Gadbsy was on fire in the first half last week (he sat out the second half because CV built a 49-10 lead at halftime). He threw five touchdowns with one interception. Some his throws, particularly a touchdown to Chase Walker in the second quarter, were with no Hoover defenders in sight.
Suffice to say, CV got a proverbial breather against the Tornadoes, which was probably needed after the Burbank game and the sloppy win over Glendale on Oct. 18. Running time was deployed in the second half to help the game move along.
It gets tougher on Friday against the Muir Mustangs. The Falcons were shut out at Muir last year, 36-0. Muir enters this one 5-0 in league, 7-1 overall.
The Mustangs were good last week in a 48-7 romp over Arcadia, which came into the game 3-1 in league. Muir’s Taeon Mason returned the opening kick 96 yards for a touchdown to set the tone. Led by quarterback Dejon Williams, the Mustangs are cruising. If the Falcons win, they’ll be tied for first place in league with one game to go.
“[Dejon is] so dangerous with his legs,” said Schilling. “When he takes off that’s almost worse than if he actually throws the ball.”
If CV is able to cover Muir’s players, that could leave Williams free to scramble for big yards.
“We’ll have our guys in the right position, but they have to make the tackles,” said Schilling.
Hello, who recorded his second pick-six of the season last week (when a defensive player intercepts the ball and runs it in for a touchdown), didn’t mince words about Friday.
“[Dejon] moves really well, and they’re just athletic guys,” he said of the whole team. “We can’t have anyone half-ass it.”
In the biggest games of the year, against San Marino and Burbank, both Gadsby and receiver Walker were at their best. Schilling said those guys live for those moments, and that the team is never out of it with those two on the field. And now the Falcons have Van Ginkel again to go along with recently activated Kyle Tavizon.
“We’re playing a lot harder, and I think we’re just more of a team this year,” Van Ginkel said.
“This is the big shot for us to be league champions,” Hello said of this week. “You can tell the atmosphere of our practices are unlike any game that we’ve had, even more than San Marino and the Burbank game.”
It’s crazy to think a team could go 8-2 and miss the playoffs, but it might happen to the Falcons if they split their last two games. Because things are so congested atop the league standings (Muir is 5-0, CV and Burroughs 4-1, and Burbank at 3-2) CV could end up with just two losses and miss the playoffs. The top three teams in the Pacific League are automatically awarded playoff spots. So if CV somehow ends up tied with three others and loses a series of coin flips, it could be out.
That’s unlikely, because there’s always an at-large bid the Falcons would probably get. But then it becomes a matter of where they would play. If they win league, and even if they finish 9-1 they’d still only tie the title with Muir, they’d get a home game against a beatable opponent. If they place third, they’d go on the road against a team that won its league.
Needless to say, the next two weeks will be very interesting.