By Brandon HENSLEY
After an up-and-down season, the Crescenta Valley High varsity football team is back in the playoffs. No, they didn’t win the Pacific League like they did last year, but the Falcons will have to embrace the fact they are still alive to repeat as CIF Southeastern Division champions.
Crescenta Valley (7-3, 5-2 in league) will take on the Cathedral Phantoms at Cathedral High School on Friday at 7 p.m. The Phantoms were 9-1 and tied for first at 4-1 in the Angelus League, which includes St. Francis and last year’s playoff foe for CV in Harvard-Westlake.
Cathedral boasts a high-scoring offense that put up 44.5 points per game, and a defense that allowed just 12 points a contest.
The Falcons avoided falling to fourth place in league last week in the season finale against Arcadia when it pulled out a close win in the final minutes. Trailing 27-21 with just under three minutes left, freshman Cole Doyle was inserted as quarterback and connected with receiver Will Rees for a 52-yard strike that went the distance. The score won 28-27, and claimed third place, which guaranteed the Falcons a playoff spot.
They tied Burbank with identical 5-2 league records, but Burbank nabbed second place (Burroughs was first) because the Bulldogs defeated CV in a defensive brawl 7-3 in September at Glendale’s Moyse Field.
In the Arcadia game, Doyle finished three of eight passing for 113 yards and the touchdown. Ty Hill, the junior who has shared time at QB with senior Evan Nelson, was four of six for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Hill also rushed for 107 and a score, and on defense he intercepted Apaches quarterback Nico Hillier two times.
Receivers Bostin Lakin and Brian Erickson caught one touchdown each. On defense, Erickson had a part in 23 tackles, eight solos and 15 assisted.
CV’s tough defense, which took a beating in Week 9 at Burroughs (a 34-3 defeat), will be tested by Cathedral in the opening round. The Falcons don’t have Matt Erickson, Davo Hakobyan or Jordan Lobianco anymore, three top-of-the-line defenders who were crucial to winning a championship in 2014. But they have Hill, who was All-CIF on defense last season and who will surely garner some awards again this time around. They also have lineman Nobel Leduc, who has made his presence known with 115 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
The Falcons’ defense has been solid for the most part. They held La Cañada to three points, and the Burbank loss certainly wasn’t on them. That was during a four-game stretch in the middle of the year when they gave up 17 points total.
The offense was blazing hot before the Burroughs game. It’s been an adjustment this season without Brian Gadsby and his receivers Connor Van Ginkel and Chase Walker. All of those players graduated, and the high-flying passing attack has been replaced by a more balanced game plan that includes Nelson’s nice tough, and Hill’s bruising running style. It’s been effective enough to win seven games, and now the Falcons will get their chance to win more.
The CIF bracket for the Falcons has the Falcons potentially playing Downey in the second round, if both teams advance. CV beat Downey for the title last year at Moyse Field. The Falcons could also end up playing Burbank in the semifinals, and Burroughs in the championship game.
Of course, that is all a few weeks away. The Falcons have their toughest test of the season on Friday.
Water Polo playoff game today
The CV boys’ varsity water polo team won the Pacific League title over runner-up Hoover, and will host a first-round playoff game today, most likely at Pasadena City College, at 3:30 p.m. The Falcons, led by Coach Jan Sakonju, were 23-6 and earned a top seed in Division IV. If CV wins today, they’ll play in the quarterfinals on Saturday against either Downey, the San Gabriel Valley League champion, or PAC-8 League runner-up Arroyo Grande.
Hoover and Flintridge Prep are also in the Division IV brackets, and also play this afternoon.
The Falcons won two playoff games last year, but lost in the semifinals to Righetti, which won the championship. Righetti, winner of the PAC-8, is the No. 1 seed this year. Finals are Saturday, Nov. 21 at the William Wollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine.