New-look Falcons set for first test

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GLENDALE — The following are previews of the area's upcoming high school football games.

The Crescenta Valley High football team is admittedly untested, but the first proving ground will be on a field where the Falcons have played plenty of times and enjoyed some notable success.

Tonight at 7, the Paul Schilling-era will officially get underway with a road contest against traditional intersectional opponent Verdugo Hills and by its conclusion, the Falcons and their first-year head coach will undoubtedly have a better idea about how they stack up with past teams.

First-year quarterback Zac Wilkerson will get his first chance to run a largely all-new offensive cast and the Bryan Luna-led defense will look to keep the Dons, who are coming off a 1-9 season, bottled up.

"It's almost like another scrimmage for us," said Schilling, who was an assistant on last year's squad that went 8-4 and made it to the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs. "We're still trying to figure out who our main guys are going to be from week to week.

"We're approaching it very much as a pre-league game, but we're going to do everything we can to win the game."

The Dons, who absorbed a 48-8 beating from the Falcons to open last season, have a new coach, as well, in John Wallace. They run a pistol offense and a 3-3 defense that Schilling said may take some getting used to for his team.

"We don't exactly know if they've improved or what," Schilling said. "We think they have, but as a City [Section] school we really don't get as much info on them.

"[The pistol] is kind of different look that we don't see too often and the 3-3 is tough because you've got guys coming from all different places."

St. Francis vs. Arcadia (7:30 p.m. today): The Golden Knights have steadily held the upper hand in this annual nonleague season kickoff rivalry and have been especially hard on the Apaches since suffering a 2007 defeat. In the past two meetings. St. Francis has outscored Arcadia, 94-7.

And while it's not the same Golden Knights squad that will take Friedman Field today — reigning All-Area Player of the Year Dietrich Riley is at the top of the list of graduated seniors that have been replaced — the program retains enough clout to enter the game ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Western Division.

St. Francis returns an experienced offensive line led by Patrick Carroll and top players such as cornerback Ryan Jenkins and receiver Travis Talianko from the team that went 9-3 and reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs and will look to break in new starters like quarterback Brett Nelson and running back Michael Melnick.

Arcadia would appear to be ready for an improved campaign after going 2-7-1 last season, as it returns seven defensive starters and has some solid pieces in place with quarterback Myles Carr, tailback Rodney Arnett and receiver Taylor Lagace.

But, improved or not, with the ridiculously tough schedule that St. Francis is facing this year, the Apaches still figure to be one of the lighter tests the team will encounter.

Hoover at Sierra Vista (7 p.m. today): The last time the Tornadoes and Dons met, the question was: Will the Tornadoes finally snap a 20-game losing streak?

The answer was no — the Tornadoes, who finished 2-8, would lose to Sierra Vista, 12-8, before getting their first win in over two years the very next week against South Pasadena. Now, Hoover will try to see if it can use Sierra Vista as a launch pad to win consecutive games, albeit not within the same season, for the first time since winning its 2004 season finale followed by its 2005 opener.

Helping that effort will be a lot of the same skill players who led Hoover to a 15-7 win over Glendale in the team's last game, quarterback AJ Pule and receivers Dymond McRae and Devaughn Williams.

Sierra Vista went 5-5 last year and did not make the playoffs.

Glendale vs. Cathedral (7 p.m. today): In its second year under Coach Alan Eberhart, Glendale has streamlined its offense, gotten more players to buy into the system and is eager to prove its better than last year's 1-9 record would indicate.

Still, the Nitros will be hard pressed to change the result when they kick off the season against the Phantoms for the second straight year.

After going 11-2 and reaching the Northwest Division semifinals, Cathedral, which defeated Glendale, 52-13, last season, has been elevated to the Western Division and Mission League and still has plenty of weapons, including senior running back Kristaan Ivory.

If the Nitros, who are led by senior two-way starter Linden Anderson, can make any progress toward closing the gap in the final score between these two teams that are at markedly different stages, they will likely consider it a victory.

Flintridge Prep vs. St. Genevieve at L.A. Poly High (7 p.m. Saturday): The Rebels will look to avoid starting their season with a loss to the Valiants for a third straight year.

Ranked eighth in the Northeast Division, they are a six-point favorite to do so, according to calpreps.com's projections, and St. Genevieve wasn't impressive in its 23-14 season-opening loss to Villanova Prep on Saturday.

There are a few things to test out for the Rebels, though, including their new shotgun Wing-T offense, a blitz-heavy defensive change in philosophy and a dual-quarterback system consisting of seniors Jordan Whaley and Kyle McDonald.

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