GLENDALE — After an avalanche of second-half points, perhaps Jordan Lobianco’s first-half histrionics were somewhat overlooked.
But in a season opener in which Crescenta Valley High football scored 41 second-half points en route to a 55-14 nonleague intersection win over Verdugo Hills, it was Lobianco’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown that ignited the Falcons to victory Thursday night at Glendale High.
“That game’s 0-0 for way too long,” said Falcons quarterback Brian Gadsby, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while adding a one-yard sneak for a score. “And that interception sparked us.”
Gadsby led to an excellent two-minute drill that culminated with a nine-yard scoring pass to Chase Walker in the front corner of the end zone with 24 second to play in the second half, putting the Falcons up, 14-0, but also serving as the first step of putting the offense on the right foot. It led to 21 third-quarter points.
“Little bit of nerves,” said Gadsby of the sluggish start. “We started off offensively really, really weak.”
But the pass to Walker changed that.
“We practice two-minute drill every day in practice; we were all excited,” said Gadsby of taking over with the ball with 1:19 to play in the half. “That one drive I think gave us the momentum going into halftime.”
Gadsby scored on a sneak for a 21-0 lead before a five-yard pass to receiver Connor Van Ginkel upped it to 28-0 and another scoring pass to Walker, this time from 21 yards out, propelled the Falcons to a 35-8 lead late in the third quarter.
Though the end result was a lopsided win, it was still a rough opening act for the Falcons, who are ranked eighth in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division.
“There’s so many years where you score 55 points and you’re like, ‘We’re pretty darn good.’ That’s what it’s like to have high expectations,” Falcons Coach Paul Schilling said. “We just needed to settle down. We were so geared up.”
Gadsby relied heavily on the one-two punch of Van Ginkel and Walker. Van Ginkel hauled in nine catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, while Walker caught five balls for 84 yards and two scores. Running back Jonathan Jun had 13 carries for 83 yards.
Quarterback and starting safety Tyler Hill ran in a six-yard score from the team’s Wildcat formation to make it 42-14 with 11:40 left to play, running back Austin Grist swept in from 14 out to push the score to 48-14 with eight minutes left and Tyler Reed’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Travis Westhoff concluded the Falcons’ scoring.
Led by solid efforts from the likes of Davo Hakobyan, Ryan Cancelosi and Sean Bloks, the Falcons’ defense had three takeaways, two sacks and allowed just 187 yards of total offense, relinquishing just one touchdown, which came on a short field after a long kickoff return. Verdugo Hills’ second score, which cut the lead to 35-14, came on a 99-yard kickoff return.
There was plenty of ugly numbers, too, though, as the teams combined for seven turnovers, with CV tallying four, and 16 penalties for 113 yards.
In the first half, the struggles were aplenty until Lobianco hauled in an over-the-shoulder grab and reversed field and weaved along the far sideline for the 99-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 8:52 play.
“I just turned and saw open field,” said Lobianco of the play that broke the shutout and also stopped a Verdugo Hills drive that got down to the Falcons’ eight before three straight penalties for 18 yards. “We were really rusty at the beginning of the game.
“Then, we got the first-half jitters out of the way.”
And 41 points later, the Falcons are 1-0.