Los Angeles Times

Pacific League football season wide open in 2012

Much like the upcoming election, trying to predict the winner of this year's Pacific League football race may very well be futile.

On a seemingly weekly basis, one candidate looks specifically better than another only to have that same aspirant suffer a setback.

As Pacific League action begins Thursday, with Burbank hosting Hoover at 7 p.m. in the first league game at renovated Memorial Field, it's easy to say the league hasn't looked great.

In fact, the Pacific League has tallied a 6-18 combined nonleague record.

Part of the reasoning behind the record could be explained in the loss of talent from the previous year.

Gone are Arcadia's Myles Carr (Fresno State), Taylor Lagace (UCLA) and Robbie Haines (Citrus College), Burrough's Zander Anding and Lester Quintana (both at Pasadena City College), Crescenta Valley's Marro Lee (University of Redlands) and Pavle Atanackovic (UC Irvine), Muir's Kevon Seymour (USC), Tairen Owens (PCC) and Denzel Talifero (transferred to Duarte), to name a few.

Yet, the records and loss of star power have given rise to a different attitude about the league, one in which there are no favorites and everyone has a sporting chance.

"Now everyone is 0-0 to start league. Not only do we start league, but we start going to Muir High School," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team finished 4-3 in league last season, tied for third, and lost in the first round of the playoffs at La Mirada. "CV has beat Muir one time at their place in history, in 2004, so we are trying to repeat that."

The Falcons (2-1) are only one of two league teams to escape the nonleague season with a winning mark, with victories over Santa Paula (26-21) and La Cañada (48-21) serving as book ends to a 27-7 defeat at San Marino.

As in years past, the Falcons' offense runs through its ground attack with senior William Wang having rushed 70 times for 507 yards and four touchdowns behind one of the league's biggest lines.

If Crescenta Valley is to make a move this season and capture the program's first league title since 2004, the Falcons will need to play their best football over the next month as they face Pasadena, Burroughs and Burbank after opening at Muir on Friday at 7 p.m.

"These next four weeks, we just told our kids, are huge," Schilling said. "Those four games, if you talk to me in four weeks, we'll have a good feeling if we have a shot.

'If I had to put my money on it, I am always going to bet on us."

The surprise of the league may very well be Hoover (2-1), which has already won more games this season than in the last two combined.

"It's wide open right now," said Tornadoes Coach Andrew Policky, whose squad was winless last year. "I have no idea who you could call a favorite. This is really a year I feel where a lot of teams could win it. If you had a gun to my head, I guess I would say Muir."

Policky's squad opened the season with a 46-0 win over Blair, followed by a 33-28 upset victory versus South Pasadena. Hoover, though, fell on the opposite side of an upset when it lost to Temple City Thursday, 15-14.

Like Crescenta Valley, Hoover's success is built from the ground up, as the team averaged 307.5 yards per game in its two victories, but only rushed for 120 yards in its defeat.

"We're just gonna take it one game at a time," Policky said. "We're not gonna throw any numbers out there. We're focused on Burbank right now and nothing else."

Glendale (1-2) and Burbank (1-2) are the only other teams in league with a win this season and open with interesting games.

The Nitros, who finished 1-6 last season and seventh in league, host banged-up Pasadena on Friday at 7 p.m. while Burbank collides with Hoover.

"We're just going to take it one game at a time and try to be competitive in each game," Glendale first-year Coach John Tuttle said. "We want to make sure the kids are mentally and physically ready to go."

Glendale has one of the league's true game-breakers in BYU-bound wide receiver Michael Davis and had a solid 21-3 victory at La Cañada two weeks ago. Glendale quarterback Kevin Felix completed nine of 13 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the La Cañada game, but hasn't produced much in any of Glendale's losses.

Davis has done a bit of everything for Glendale, from passing, running and obviously catching the ball. All in all, he's scored four of the Nitros' six touchdowns with his most recent coming on a 99-yard kickoff return in a 39-7 loss to South Pasadena on Friday.

When asked who he thought was the favorite, Tuttle said, "it is Burroughs until somebody beats them." He then added, "I think the league is wide open for anybody."

As for Burbank, it defeated Chatsworth, 39-3, in the season opener and nearly upset Inglewood Friday before falling, 21-14, in overtime.

The Bulldogs have suffered through some rough spots during the nonleague campaign, as penalties and mistakes have hindered the squad.

"The kids realize that if we take care of our own business, then we're going to be OK," Burbank Coach Hector Valencia said. "We just have to get better. We cannot afford penalties, we cannot afford turnovers and we just have to cut down on the mental mistakes. If we can take care of those things, our guys have enough self-confidence to play like we know we can play."

When it comes to predicting which team will emerge as the front-runner in league, Valencia said that is a tough call.

"From what I have seen with the scores from the preseason, there doesn't seem to be one dominant team so far," said Valencia, whose squad went 3-4 in league in 2011. "A lot of the teams don't have that many wins in the preseason, but it's nice to see that Hoover and Glendale have been improved, and I think that is better for the league all around.

"But I feel good about our chances. I think that we'll be one of the teams competing for the league title. I really think we have what it takes to win it."

As for cross-town Burroughs, the Indians are one four league teams 0-3 to begin league play. Burroughs hopes to notch its first win against visiting Arcadia on Friday at 7 p.m.

"For the past two years we went 0-3 before league and both years we ended up winning league championships," Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said. "So, our record doesn't bother us."

The Indians have had to deal with injury problems with their two quarterbacks and even had a starting wide receiver taking snaps against North Hollywood.

"When you start league, that's when it all counts," said Knoop, whose team shared the league title in 2011 with Arcadia after going 6-1 and losing only to Muir, 28-0. "It is always our goal to win a league title, and that's how were approaching things in league this year."

Looking at the league competition, Knoop said Muir and Pasadena have had tough nonleague schedules, which should benefit both teams.

"Muir played Upland, Alemany and Rancho Cucamonga; those are some great teams," Knoop said. "Then Pasadena played Alemany and Cathedral, and those are good teams as well. Playing against that kind of qualify competition is only going to make you better. And Muir, after taking their lumps against those teams, will probably come into league a little angry."

Survival was the key word for the Mustangs (0-3), who played the area's toughest schedule against three teams all ranked in the top 20 in the state.

"I wasn't thrilled when I saw our schedule because not only were we on the road for all those games, but we're playing against some of the most physical teams in the state," Muir first-year Coach John Hardy said. "More than anything, I wanted to avoid big injuries."

Muir's advantage over the rest of the league is that the Mustangs are coming off a bye, a week off desperately needed for a team hoping to get back center Addison Farmer, wide receiver Mason Taoen, running back Mark Samuels and other key players back from injury.

"The good thing about this schedule being over is that we know no one in the Pacific League is going to be as good as the three teams we faced," Hardy said. "With the talent we have year in and year out, we consider ourselves the favorite. We should be the favorite every year and I'll be disappointed if we lose a game in league this year."

Muir proved the surprise last year, finishing 4-3 in league in tying for third and then advancing to the CIF-SS Southeast Division semifinals.

Maybe no team had as much hype swirled around it as did Pasadena (0-3) to begin the season.

Yet, Pasadena is in a state of concern as University of Arizona-committed quarterback Brandon Cox suffered a break in his left foot on Sept. 7 and sat out the Bulldogs' 35-6 defeat at Salesian last week.

"Even with the injury, I still believe we're the best team in league," said Pasadena Coach Randy Horton, whose squad is in the hunt for its first league crown since 1984. "We still have the talent and desire to win it this year."

Cox is out for Pasadena's opener Friday at Glendale and then the following week's road contest versus Crescenta Valley.

Pasadena suffered losses to Alemany, Cathedral and Salesian, and was most competitive versus the Phantoms before eventually losing 35-21.

Last season, Pasadena finished 4-3 and tied for third in league, while eventually reaching the second round of the playoffs.

Jeff Tully and Andrew Shortall contributed to this report. 

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