Falcons victorious over Vikings 21-14 to claim CIF SS championship.
Photos by Leonard COUTIN
Falcons Win CIF, Cap Perfect Season
By Brandon HENSLEY
It was tough for Hudson Gossard to find words for what just happened last night at Glendale High School. He paused frequently and looked down, then up, then down again.
What could he say? For the first time since 1973, the Falcons were champions.
“It’s pretty surreal. The game was like a flash. I still can’t remember things that went on,” said Gossard, the offensive coordinator for the Crescenta Valley High football team. Correction: The CIF Southeast Division champion Crescenta Valley High football team.
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, the beginning was downright clumsy. Then it got tense late, but when Gossard’s offense needed to score, it did. Quarterback Brian Gadsby hit Jordan LoBianco with a 22-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone of the first play of the fourth quarter, and that was the difference as CV defeated the Downey Vikings 21-14 to claim the CIF Southern Section Southeast crown.
Gadsby threw for 220 yards, running back Jonathan Jun ran for 100 yards and one touchdown, and Connor Van Ginkel (five catches for 102 yards) made some highlight reel catches after Gadsby had bought just enough time in the pocket.
“We didn’t play our best offensive game. We got down to the red zone but we couldn’t push it in,” Gossard said. “But when [Downey] tied the game, we made the plays we had to make to take the lead.”
Defensively, the Falcons still had work to do to contain the great running duo of Daevon Vigilant and senior Justin Huff (1,799 yards and 1,287 yards coming into the game, respectively).
A 25-yard field goal attempt by Alex Atanackovic went wide-right with three minutes left in the game. That would have given CV a 10-point lead but instead turned the ball over to Downey.
But here came Matt Erickson to save the day. With apologies to Jordan LoBianco and Davo Hakobyan, the team’s best all-around defender stepped up in the biggest spot of the season. On fourth-and-2 in their own territory, Downey hurried to the line and called a run for Vigilant to the left side. Erickson rushed from the opposite side, broke through the line and made the sprawling stop for a 1-yard loss. The Falcons sideline went crazy, and Gadsby and company ran out the clock for the victory.
“I knew I was going to make the play,” said Erickson, who battled an early left foot injury all night. “I saw the [Downey lineman] pull. I was going for the tackle. It was an amazing feeling coming up after making that play.”
When the clock hit zero, CV students from a sell-out Moyse Field jumped over the railing and headed for the field to take pictures with the new champions. The Falcon coaches and players finally raised the CIF championship plaque, and the field remained a sea of people hugging and commiserating until the lights started to go out.
“I was shocked. It was an amazing feeling seeing everyone come down on the field,” Erickson said. “It was an amazing atmosphere all night long. When that clock hit zero, you know you won and you get to raise that plaque and everything.”
The win gave Crescenta Valley, led by Coach Paul Schilling, a perfect 14-0 season, barring a selection to a state bowl game (CIF will announce those on Sunday). The Falcons won the Pacific League championship for the first time since 2004, and now they have their first CIF title since 1973. The program hadn’t gone this far since 1992 when it made the semifinals.
CV defeated the reigning Southeast champion La Serna last week in the semifinals, and Downey was the 2012 champ.
“This wasn’t our goal at first,” said receiver/defensive back Bostin Lakin. “Our goal was to win league and go 10-0. Then we realized we were a pretty good team, so it just escalated to this. We thought we could do it, and we ended up doing this.”
Players said they had a hard time concentrating during the day. Christmas for them was here already, and they couldn’t wait to have some fun.
“We had school today, so the whole day we were just thinking about this game,” said Lakin, who added he barely slept the night before. “We couldn’t focus on anything but this.”
Chase Walker, who scored the game’s second touchdown, said he was able to get some food down. “But it was hard. It was hard. It wasn’t just nerves though. For me, I was anxious. I just wanted to get out there and play.”
Walker, a sure-handed receiver who caught 10 touchdowns through the first 13 games, came up big in an unusual way in the second quarter. Up 7-0 and at the Viking 2-yard line, Gadsby was moved to receiver and Tyler Hill took the snap. Hill ran up the middle but fumbled on the 1-yard line. The ball bounced into the end zone and Walker pounced on it.
“I was going off of a block and I let my guy go,” Walker said. “I look at Ty and he’s got the ball and he hits the 1-yard line. The ball bounces out and I said, ‘Why isn’t anyone picking it up?’ I picked it up and everyone went crazy.”
Though CV led at that point 14-0, it hadn’t been the smoothest game early on. The Falcons gave the ball away on a fumble early in the first quarter while driving inside Viking territory and Gadsby was sacked twice in the first quarter. It’s rare for him to be sacked twice all game.
CV also left points on the board in the second quarter. Atanackovic converted a 27-yard field goal to give his team a 17-7 lead, but officials called a penalty on the Falcons, which pushed them back 10 yards and forced a punt.
Downey tied the game in the third quarter on a 5-yard run by Huff with 1:44 to go. Soon, though, Gadbsy would connect with LoBianco, and the Falcons would be on their way to celebrating into a chilly Glendale night.
“It was the best feeling ever. I’ve never felt anything like this in my entire life,” Lakin said.
“It had been so long since we made a deep run,” said Gossard, who led the Falcons to a league title in the early 2000s as quarterback. “This to me is just unimaginable that we can call ourselves the CIF champions. We get to put a banner up in our gym. These kids will live as legends for the rest of their lives.”