Plenty of hugs and handshakes took place in the end zone a few minutes after the Crescenta Valley High football team saw its season come to a close.
In between the end zones, fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley had difficulty handling the ball, leading to six turnovers in a 38-29 home loss against Saugus in a CIF Southern Section Division VI first-round contest at Moyse Field.
It was the most turnovers committed in a game this season for Crescenta Valley, which had won eight straight games and the Pacific League championship outright before stumbling against physical Saugus.
"That’s a lot of turnovers and it’s something that you don’t normally see from our guys," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team finished 9-2 and lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season after winning a CIF championship in 2014. "It’s just real crazy, but we ran into a tough first-round opponent that’s very good on defense.
"I thought coming into the game that both defenses would be right there and it would come down to a late play. We had a great season, but it’s just hard right now after a loss like this."
Saugus (9-2) overcame an early first-quarter deficit and took control before holding off a late comeback bid by the Falcons. The Centurions, who took third in the Foothill League behind Valencia Valencia and Hart, will meet Long Beach Wilson in a quarterfinal contest Friday.
Crescenta Valley took a 2-0 lead with a safety when Saugus punter Tanner Brown’s foot stepped on the out of bounds line with 9:12 left in the first quarter. The Falcons then made it 9-0 when Will Rees returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards for a touchdown to make with 7:15 to go in the opening quarter.
The Centurions responded when Quinn Sheaffer caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Eldridge to make it 9-7 with 5:42 left. Saugus took a 14-9 lead with 1:24 to play in the first quarter when Jared Pane caught a 15-yard pass from Eldridge.
Crescenta Valley took a 15-14 lead on an eight-yard run by Brandon Beardt with 6:24 remaining in the second quarter. The Falcons held a 15-14 halftime lead before seeing the Centurions heat up on offense in the second half.
Sheaffer opened the second-half scoring with an 80-yard touchdown run to make it 22-15 with 8:18 left in the third quarter. The Centurions recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Crescenta Valley 29-yard line.
Eldridge scored on a one-yard run to extend the lead to 29-15 with 6:17 to go in the quarter.
Following an interception by Saugus’ Jordan Burden that was returned 24 yards to the Crescenta Valley eight-yard line, Saugus’ Logan Miller converted a 35-yard field goal to make it 32-15 with 4:22 to go in the quarter.
Crescenta Valley trimmed the deficit to 33-22 on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Doyle to Rees with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
The Falcons mounted a fourth-quarter rally as Andrew Traber caught a nine-yard pass from Doyle to bring the Falcons to within 32-29 with 6:37 left in the game.
Any hope to complete the comeback was dashed five minutes later when Tahjeem Johnson intercepted a pass by Doyle near midfield. Saugus closed out the scoring on a three-yard run by Gary Bojorquez with 1:31 to play.
"They have a very good defense and they blitzed a lot," said Doyle, a sophomore who completed 16 of 25 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. "We played our hearts out and we thought we could make a comeback and we nearly did.
"I can learn a lot from it and so can the players coming back. We just ran into a tough team."
Omiri Edwards rushed for 86 yards in 10 carries for Crescenta Valley, which received five catches for 50 yards from Traber.
Sheaffer rushed for 112 yards in 10 carries for Saugus, which got nine completions in 19 attempts for 127 yards from Eldridge.