The Falcons are in the CIF championship game, thanks in part to the drive that kept them alive.
By Brandon HENSLEY
The cameras of Fox Sports picked up quarterback Brian Gadsby as he walked onto the field for what could have been the final drive of his career, and the Falcons’ season. It was the CIF semifinals, with just 2:50 left in regulation and the ball on the Falcons’ 30-yard line. Trailing 36-35, a chance to go the championship game was on the line. Gadsby clapped his hands several times, looked around for direction from his offensive assistant coach Hudson Gossard and went to work.
Seventy yards for the season, he told his team in the huddle. We need to score or the season is over.
“We all got fired up. No one wanted to see our season end,” Gadsby said.
Of course, you know by now the Crescenta Valley football season did not end there. The Falcons edged La Serna last week at Glendale’s Moyse Field 41-36 in a thrilling back and forth affair that will be remembered for a long time in the Falcon family.
The drive ended with Gadsby scoring from two yards out with 1:08 left, and La Serna’s last offensive gasp failed, and the Falcons (13-0) were headed to the CIF Southeast championship game. That game is Friday vs. the Downey Vikings at Moyse Field at 7:30 p.m. Gates will open at
5:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $5 for students.
It would be hyperbolic to compare that last drive to something John Elway or Joe Montana used to do for their teams, but considering it’s been 41 years since CV’s football team won CIF, that drive has to be the biggest moment for the program in some time, with one more game left to make even more memories.
“This was our shot,” Gadsby said. “The defense did their part to get the ball back and now it’s our turn.”
This wasn’t the usual game the Falcons were used to. True, they took a 21-7 lead in the second quarter, but La Serna, the defending CIF Southeast champions, roared right back. It was 21-14 at halftime, and in the second half things began to unravel after CV led 28-14.
La Serna kept scoring, including points off a terrible turnover from CV in which a trick play ended up as an interception. The Lancers took the lead, an unusual sight to see not only because CV’s offense usually puts the game away by the fourth quarter, but because the defense had been excellent all year. The most points it had given up were 26 before last week.
But the defense came to life late, forcing an incompletion on third down from midfield. A short punt gave the ball to CV at the 30-yard line, and it was time to go.
“When our defense got them to punt, I had some particular plays I was thinking of running,” said Gossard.
The first play he called was a sprint out pass to Chase Walker, but it was incomplete.
“After that my plan just went out the window,” Gossard said.
Maybe that was a good thing. The next play was a 15-yard pass to Connor Van Ginkel over the middle. Then a screen to Walker for 22 yards and a first-down run up the middle by Jonathan Jun. Two plays later, it was a 15-yard completion to Bostin Lakin near the left pylon that everyone thought was a touchdown, but was called down at the 1.
Two plays after that, Gadsby took it in himself, and said he remembers falling on top of right tackle Bryan Wong, looking him eye to eye and thinking, “Wow, we just scored.”
“Everyone did what they needed to do,” Gadbsy said. “We ran the ball, blocked, caught the ball. It seemed like almost the perfect drive.”
A perfect, yet improvised drive.
“Certain plays stick out in your mind that you know are kind of your comfort plays, I guess,” Gossard said. “In addition, during the game you make mental checks of the types of plays that have been successful. With all that being said, after that first (incompletion to Walker), the rest was just pure instinct. Those were the calls that popped in my head.”
In their three playoff games, the Falcons have not scored fewer than 35 points. Gadsby is averaging 287 passing yards in the playoffs with a 62% completion percentage. But it’s not just the passing attack. Jun has run for over 100 yards the last two games with three touchdowns.
Defensively, there were problems against La Serna. Take the 55-yard rushing touchdown from Kevin Ramos in the first quarter. After leading by 14 points in the third quarter, La Serna scored 15 unanswered points and 22 out the next 29, before CV’s final drive.
Then again, it did come up big on the last two Lancer drives. Quarterback Enrique Pacheco was one for his last six attempts, including three incompletions to end the game (he was also sacked on the drive).
Moyse Field was rocking last week, and this week figures to be a sell-out. This game is, after all, 41 years in the making.
“School is a lot of fun. Everyone’s saying congratulations and good luck,” Gadsby said. “It’s really cool to have the school and the community behind you. It’s a neat feeling.
“We’re staying humble. We know we’re nothing yet; 13-0 is great, but 14-0 is a lot better.”
Preparing for Downey
Downey (10-3, 5-0 in the San Gabriel Valley League) comes into the title game having beaten up on California High School in the first round. The Vikings barely got by Cathedral 21-18, and then handled Salesian by 21 points in the quarterfinals.
CV will have its hands full with junior running back Daevon Vigilant, who has 1,799 rushing yards. He averages nine yards a carry and has scored 11 touchdowns. The passing game is more modest for Downey. Quarterback Trevor Hill averages 154 yards passing, with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Defensively, lineman Chris Blanton is averaging two sacks a game, for a staggering 26 sacks on the season. He leads Downey with 71 total tackles.
The keys to the game will be how CV’s defense stops Vigilant. The last time the Falcons played a run-heavy team, they did well, beating Harvard-Westlake in the first round.
Also look to see how much time Gadsby’s offensive line gives him. Gadbsy likes to pump-fake and stay in the pocket as long as he can. It may come down how well Jun performs, or at least how many times the CV coaches call his number to take pressure off of the passing game.