An Opener for the Birds

Football team travels to Santa Paula to play the Cardinals Friday to kick off season

Photo by Brandon HENSLEY The Falcons were suited up on Aug. 21 in practice for the scrimmage against Monrovia on Aug. 23. The scrimmage gave both teams the chance to see how they performed against players other than their own teammates.
Photo by Brandon HENSLEY
The Falcons were suited up on Aug. 21 in practice for the scrimmage against Monrovia on Aug. 23. The scrimmage gave both teams the chance to see how they performed against players other than their own teammates.

By Brandon HENSLEY

It was only a scrimmage, but the Crescenta Valley Falcons football team sure looked good Aug. 23 against Monrovia High School. Maybe the Falcons were just excited to put on their pads and hit something other than themselves.

The field at CV was a bit crowded – the JV teams from each school were also playing on the far end of the field – and no score was kept, but CV’s defense was able to grab a couple of interceptions, and running back William Wang ran every which way on the Wildcat defense, pumping up the team’s confidence for its season opener Friday at Santa Paula.

“I think we did excellent,” said senior wide receiver Jack Lutynski. “Monrovia’s a very good team, back to back league champions. Seems like we beat them pretty handily.”

The Wildcats have indeed had a nice run recently. They were champions of the Rio Honda League last year, and won the Mid-Valley Southern Section Championship by rolling San Gabriel 53-14 in the title game.

CV Coach Paul Schilling said he hoped his team would mainly get out of the scrimmage without any injuries.

“We want to get the experience of ‘game speed’ in the scrimmage,” he said before. “Monrovia is a great team, and it gives our guys the experience of playing an opponent who might be the best team they see all year.

The Falcons and Wildcats each practiced punting and punt returning, then moved onto field-goal kicking – from 35 yards out and then 45 yards – before turning to offense and defense.

On defense, Falcon defensive backs Kevin Hello and Jeff Saengsri each had interceptions (Hello’s pick was caused by good pressure by the defensive line), and there were multiple stops in the backfield which fired up the players on the sideline. The stand of the day came when CV forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the goal line.

Of course, Monrovia did score a few times, but the Falcons’ defensive performance was something to take notice, considering last year’s team had a penchant for giving up a lot of points to opponents not named Glendale or Hoover.

On offense, Wang looked sharp, and ready to take over for Marro Lee who graduated in June. Wang took a lot of inside handoffs and showed off his speed and agility, slicing through the Monrovia defense before breaking outside several times for big gains.

“William Wang is an excellent back,” said Lutynski. “He’s very shifty. He is the next Marro Lee.”

Afterward, Wang seemed to fight off that comparison.

“I’d like to think I’m my own person, do my own thing,” Wang said. “I know I’ve been working hard. I packed on 20 pounds since last year. I know I’ve worked too hard to fail right now.”

As for the quarterback battle between Joe Torres and Ben Rees, both players had their faults mixed in with some success on the day. Rees connected on three of his eight passes, including a 40-yard touchdown to Lutynski along the left sideline. He was shaky in the beginning, missing his first four attempts before completing a short pass to Wang coming out of the backfield.

Torres was more a runner. He mostly scrambled to his right when his did take off, and he ran for a score when he went up the middle on a broken play.

Schilling was still non-committal in naming the starter for Friday. He said he planned on giving Rees and Torres equal playing time against Monrovia and “we will probably continue that for the first few games. They are both doing a good job,” he said. “Neither one is the ‘starter’ and neither one is the ‘back-up.’ We haven’t decided who will start verse Santa Paula, but both will play.”

Both players are just juniors, replacing graduate Zac Wilkerson who exhibited a run-first attitude. The offensive line is expected to be much better this season, so the need for whoever is in the pocket to run should be cut down significantly.

“They’re doing their best. It’s hard coming up as an underclassman being the starting quarterback on varsity,” said Lutynski. “They have their jitters; we’re trying to get them out.”

“We miss Marro, Nick [Ruiz, wide receiver/corner back], and Zac from last year,” said Schilling. “We think William Wang, Jack Lutynski, and our quarterbacks will continue to work hard and fill the shoes of those guys from last year. Plus we have three returning starters on our offensive line in Andrew Kiorkof, Ryan Powell, and Naz Erdoglyan. They will be the ones to make our skill guys look good.”

Bring on the Games
The Santa Paula Cardinals came to town last September for the season opener, and Marro Lee ran all over the place with 131 yards and two touchdowns and CV pulled out a 40-32 win. Wang will now try and do the same in place of Lee, this time at Santa Paula. The Cardinals were just 2-8 last year.

“We practiced hard [last week], studied film. We should beat them,” said Lutynski.

The Falcons finished 6-4 last year, fourth in the Pacific League, and lost in the first round of the playoffs. It was an improvement over the 2010 season, when they finished 4-6 in Schilling’s first year as head coach (he was an assistant under Tony Zarillo.)

With an improved offensive line, and Wang and Lutynski running and catching, CV shouldn’t see a big drop-off in success. This season St. Francis, a team that routinely beats CV with ease, is not on the Falcons’ schedule. Glendale and Hoover are still in transition mode and Burroughs, which went 6-1 in the Pacific League in 2011, is now without talented running back Zander Anding who graduated.

CV’s first home game is against La Cañada on Sept. 14 at Glendale High’s Moyse Field. The team’s first league game is against Muir at Moyse Field on Sept. 21.