The Falcons are closing in on an undefeated regular season as they face rival Arcadia this week in the season finale, and Jordan LoBianco and Matt Erickson have had plenty to do with the team’s success.
By Brandon HENSLEY
One more game – presumably a win – and then the real work begins. One more game and the playoffs start, and maybe these guys can actually face some competition. Because, after all, most of these games are over by halftime.
The Crescenta Valley High School football team closes out its regular season Friday night as it travels to Arcadia High School to take on the Apaches a week after another dominating performance, this time against the Pasadena Bulldogs, 49-24. The win clinched at least a share of the Pacific League title and the Falcons are one win away from an undefeated season, the first since assistant coach Hudson Gossard was quarterback for them more than a decade ago.
The Oct. 30 home victory was another example of how hungry the Falcons are after barely missing out on the playoffs a year ago. It was another example of how together this team is playing, and how efficient and electric it has been in all facets of the game this season.
There was the usual suffocating defense, as the starting unit held Pasadena to nine points through three quarters. There was running back Jonathan Jun eating up yards in the first half, finding holes through the right side with ease, and then later through the left side (Jun rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns). There was quarterback Brian Gadsby, in sync with one of his best friends, receiver Connor Van Ginkel, as they connected for an inside slant pass play that went for a 53-yard touchdown.
Most of all that night, and really most of all this season, there was Jordan LoBianco, doing what he does best.
LoBianco caught two passes on offense, played his usual smothering defense at cornerback, and had a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. If he’s the guy who seems like he’s everywhere on the field, it’s because he is.
After the game he admitted it can be draining.
“My body just ends up giving out … I’m pretty tired,” he said. He can also cramp up, and those usually come after halftime. He said he needs time to recover, and that means the opposing team has a chance to breathe, if only for a little while.
Defensive lineman and linebacker Matt Erickson said LoBianco, who stands at maybe 5’7”, is impressive with his defensive prowess.
“He absolutely covers guys to the best of his ability,” Erickson said. “He does a great job at it. It’s pretty amazing how high he can jump and break balls up.”
LoBianco has seven interceptions heading into Friday’s game, but it’s not just his defense. He leads the teams in all-purpose yards with over 1,100, and every time he returns a kick, watch out. His punt return last week was spectacular, as he took the ball on the far sideline near the 20-yard line, split two defenders and took off across the field down the other sideline. It was eerily reminiscent of Reggie Bush’s punt return TD for USC in the fog game against Oregon State in 2004.
“I just tried to get bigger and stronger, get a little faster. Just make bigger plays this year,” LoBianco said of his preparation coming into this year. He transferred from Verdugo Hills to CV in 2013. “I love the people here. They’re really supportive,” he said of Crescenta Valley.
If you want overall dominance on the defensive side, you won’t do better than Erickson, though. The senior has terrorized opposing lineman all year. He is second on the team with 90 tackles, and has 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.
It’s more than numbers with Erickson, though. It’s also about words. While his father is one of the more vocal fans in the stands (“Come on boys, keep the pressure on!” “There you go, that’s the smart play!”) Erickson also likes to talk on the field, just in a different manner. He’ll engage the other team, not in trash talk but in a way that may weird the players out. Whatever he does, it seems to work.
“I like to have a little fun at the line,” he said. “Sometimes it can get tense. I try and ease up things with the other guys. It’s not rude or anything. I’m just trying to ease tension. There’s a couple plays where those guys are trying to rip our heads off … I don’t want to get killed or anything, so take it easy, guys.”
Offensively, the Falcons have scored 35 or more points in all but one of their games. Even against the defending league champion Muir Mustangs on Oct. 24 they were able to score 38 points and win an emotional game on the road.
On Friday, it will mark the two-year anniversary since Gadsby played his first game at Arcadia. It was only his second start ever as a varsity quarterback. Crescenta Valley, playing out the string, won 23-7 against an Apaches team that was playoff bound but losing steam fast. Two years later the Falcons are the ones headed for the postseason, possibly as outright league champions, while Arcadia (2-7, 1-5 in league) looks to play spoiler in Gadsby’s last regular season game as a Falcon.