By Vincent PAGE
For Crescenta Valley High School, this season for the varsity football team is going to be different. Even with so many familiar faces, the team is venturing into unchartered waters, with both positive and negative expectations.
For starters, head coach Paul Schilling and his staff are entering a new era of Falcon football. For the first time in school history, the team is playing in Orlando, Florida for a preseason game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. They will be taking on Florida’s Barron Collier High School, which went 5-6 in 2016.
The Falcons will also be trying to make school history this season. There have only been two instances when CVHS has won back-to-back Pacific League championships. After winning the league last year, this squad will be looking to add a third victory to the record books.
However, that will not come easy for the Falcons. The team lost a handful of standouts to graduation. Tyler Hill, the four-year “Swiss Army Knife,” is now gone, leaving an absence that is not easily filled.
While Hill was a fiery competitor, teammate Brandon Beardt brought a silent but deadly approach to the Falcons as a standout running back and linebacker.
“There aren’t a lot of guys like Ty and Brandon. You have Brandon, the lead-by-example type, and then Ty who will get in guys’ faces. They don’t come around often,” Schilling explained.
Even though the coaches know those types of players come around once in a decade, if that, they still must find players who can step up and lead this season.
The defensive side of the ball seems to have a cornerstone in two familiar last names, albeit extremely different players. Senior linebacker Brian Erickson, who was called up during his freshman year, has once again assumed his linebacker role for defensive coordinator Dennis Gossard. Erickson’s older brother Matt was a key pass rusher and defensive captain for CV’s CIF title run in 2014. Erickson will be commanding the defense from the middle of the field, but will also tap into the family trait, rushing off the edge in key passing situations.
In the secondary, the team has senior cornerback Tyler Lobianco. He is the younger brother of Jordan, who was an all-around playmaker in his time at CVHS as a cornerback and returner in the kicking game. But Jordan was a shorter cornerback who excelled in coverage. Tyler brings more height and physicality to his game, and is not afraid of contact, whether to tackle or make a play on the ball.
“Erickson is going to be one of the most important players on the team this year, captaining the defense. Lobianco is the quiet assasin in the secondary,” Gossard emphasized.
The defensive line will look new as well, even though the players commanding it will have been on the team for a few seasons now. Tommy Chun, Destin Jordan, and Riley Center have all anchored the Falcons’ offensive line since their sophomore year. This year, however, they’ll be asked to play the position they’re used to
blocking, rotating with each other for the defensive tackle positions. While they won’t play every down on defense, Schilling believes in them as possible cornerstones.
“When Tommy, Riley and Destin are in there, they’re like two-year starters. They’re just as good as our tackles were last year,” he said.
On offense, many of the same faces reappear. Beardt and Traber, the two top receivers in 2016, followed by Hill and fellow graduate Will Rees, are all gone. This leaves Lobianco, who had 15 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown last season, as the team’s top receiver. James Baek will also look to be a featured part of the passing game.
Running back Joe Suh will be a bigger piece of the offense this season. In his junior year, he led the team in carries with 88 while rushing for 614 yards (7.0 average) and four touchdowns.
Leading this offense, though, is
junior quarterback Cole Doyle. He’ll be entering his third year as a starter. After making two starts his freshman year, Doyle threw for 1,647 yards in 2016. He had a .646 completion percentage while throwing 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Doyle’s only detriment is his size. He was listed at 5’ 9” and 160 pounds last year. But Doyle more than makes up for that with his arm. He has shown that, when he is in the zone, he can make any throw he wants. He is also a solid runner, not afraid to tuck and run when needed.
The last time the Falcons had a quarterback going into his third year as a starter was in 2014, when Brian Gadsby came out of his brief football retirement to lead his team to a CIF championship. While that might seem crazy for a team with so many new faces, championships are in their DNA.