By Brandon HENSLEY
With all the attention other programs at Crescenta Valley High School have earned over the last several years, it’s about time the football team joined in on the fun. And, boy, not only have they joined in – they’re throwing their own party.
The Falcon fun continued last week at Paramount High School where Crescenta Valley defeated the Pirates 35-14 in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Crescenta Valley (12-0, Pacific League champions) raced out to a 21-0 lead at halftime against Paramount, and led 28-0 before the Pirates scored consecutive touchdowns to make it 28-14. But a touchdown throw from Brian Gadsby to Jordan LoBianco in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter put the game away.
The win moved CV on to the semifinals, a place it hasn’t been since 1992. That’s right; Bill Clinton was President-elect and Kurt Cobain was still alive the last time teenagers in navy and white played football this time of year in La Crescenta.
The semifinal game will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Glendale High School against La Serna, the defending champions from the Southeastern Conference. Those who can’t go to the game can watch it as it is streamed live on foxports.com/west/prepzone-stream.
“The plan is to execute our game plan, win the turnover battle and play hard,” said CV Coach Paul Schilling. “They are good because they too have excellent coaches and their kids play hard.”
The annual CV alumni basketball game was held this week and, to be sure, Thanksgiving is usually a time reserved for looking ahead to a winter sports season jam-packed with talented teams. The boys’ basketball team made consecutive CIF semifinal appearances in a tough Division 1A in 2012 and 2013. Last season, the boys won their first Pacific League title since 2004.
The boys’ soccer team won a CIF title in 2012 and was ranked second in the state. The team has also had playoff success since then. And the girls’ water polo team won a CIF championship in 2013 falling one game short of returning to the title game last season.
Before this month, the football team, on the other hand, hadn’t made the playoffs since 2011. The Falcons lost that year in the first round. Problems for the team over the last few seasons were obvious. Quarterback Zac Wilkerson was super athletic but inconsistent. Then came the battle who would win the quarterback job between Joe Torres and Ben Rees. It never worked out. Torres, a third baseman on the baseball team from 2011 to 2014, was always more of a backup (something he did a good job of last season when Gadsby was on the sidelines) and Rees always shined more on defense or as a receiver.
Defensively, there’s been a lot of individual talent in Nick Ruiz, Chad Eggertson, Kevin Hello and Austin Brines, but collectively CV was known for giving up too many points and too many yards in too many pressure spots. This year’s group, which includes none of those guys previously mentioned, has stepped up in ways that has surprised some people, just not themselves.
“We have mature kids who like to compete. We are always prepared,” Schilling said. “Our whole defense has been amazing. Probably the unsung heroes are Jae Hong [outside backer opposite Sean Bloks] and Brandon Beardt [safety opposite Ty Hill]. Also, Bostin Lakin playing both sides of the ball; he has really become a great cornerback to go along with LoBianco [who plays the same position].
CV sacked Paramount quarterback Caash Maluia seven times – three from junior Colin Caver and two from senior Matt Erickson – and intercepted him twice, one each for LoBianco and Lakin.
So far, Muir High School has scored the most points on CV, with 26. The two teams the Falcons have beaten in the playoffs, Harvard-Westlake and Paramount, were considered better than all of the teams in the Pacific League, including Muir.
Schilling said after the Paramount game he thought the Pirates weren’t ready for that kind of passing attack. But everyone knows Gadsby (37 touchdowns, 3,200 passing yards through 12 games) is dangerous when he drops back to pass, considering he has a bevy of weapons at his disposal.
What makes the offense even more dangerous is when LoBianco comes in as receiver. He’s usually running around on defense or special teams, but if he has enough energy to play offense, it makes covering everyone virtually impossible. And that’s not mentioning the offensive line, which includes Davo Hakobyan and BK Kim, who scored on a trick play in the first round playoff game.
“Our offensive line,” Schilling said, “they are legit and they rarely give up a sack.”
The winner of Friday’s game will play in the Southeast championship game between either Downey or Salesian. The Falcons haven’t won a CIF title in football since 1973. That team, which was inducted into the CV Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011, recorded seven straight shutouts at one point, and Dennis Gossard, an assistant to Schilling now, was an assistant back then.
On Dec. 4, a day before the championship game, the Falcons will host their annual end of season banquet. Maybe, though, they’ll still have something to play for.
More Attention for LoBianco
Footage of LoBianco’s touchdown ended up on NBC4’s Sunday night show “The Challenge,” hosted by Fred Roggin and former USC tailback Petros Papadakis.
“A lot of sag in LoBianco’s uniform,” Papadakis noted as the highlight played.
“What do you mean?” Roggin asked.
“Well, the kids usually wear a tighter [uniform] these days,” Papadakis replied.
No matter how LoBianco wears his uniform, he and the rest of his teammates are looking better than they ever have.
No St. Francis? No Problem, Says Schilling
Unfortunately for local football fans, Friday’s matchup will not include St. Francis. The Golden Knights, who went undefeated in the regular season and won their first league championship since 1997, fell to La Serna last week 38-35, denying the chance to see a St. Francis-Crescenta Valley faceoff. The teams used to meet early in the season every year, but haven’t played each other since 2011, a 35-0 win by St. Francis.
“The kids might be a little bummed out,” Schilling said of not playing St. Francis, “but I think it’s more important to us that we are in the semifinals and want to keep it going. Like I have been saying, it’s about us, not the opponent.”