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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW : Crescenta Valley Assumes a New Role

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Crescenta Valley High football team will take its detractors where it can find them.

This week, the Falcons have vented their anger at some local newspapers. One omitted the team from its preseason rankings. Another predicted the Falcons would lose their opener tonight against La Canada.

Although running back Erik LaCom, one of the Falcons’ chief motivators, wasn’t sure which newspapers did what, it hardly matters.

The Falcons needed something to spark them. Nothing worse for a football team than everyone saying how good it is.

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After going 18-22 in the previous four seasons, Crescenta Valley broke out with an 11-2 record in 1992. The highlight was a 13-7 victory against previously unbeaten Hart in the Southern Section Division II quarterfinals.

“That made our kids believe in themselves,” said first-year Coach Alan Eberhart, an assistant since 1984. “If anything, we’ll have the opposite problem this year, making sure they don’t believe too much in themselves.”

All fingers are pointed at Crescenta Valley. The Falcons are co-favorites in the Pacific League, along with perennially talented Muir. Cal-Hi Sports ranked the Falcons 19th in the state in its preseason poll. The Southern Section ranked Crescenta Valley ninth in Division II.

Each of the coaches in the Pacific League said Crescenta Valley will be Muir’s toughest obstacle to a second consecutive league title.

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“With all that success, you would think the kids would be confident and again have high expectations,” Hoover Coach Dennis Hughes said. “That should motivate them to play well.”

Eberhart, who took over after Jim Beckenhauer resigned to spend more time with his family, inherits a team with a solid group of returning starters. The players and coaches learned to win together last season.

“For years we would go 2-8 every year,” Eberhart said. “If we’d win six games, it was a great season at C.V. (Last year) we never dreamed we’d be that good. It just snowballed.”

The avalanche buried Hart.

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No game better demonstrated the Falcons’ strengths than the victory over Hart. The Indians were held to their fewest points of the season and Crescenta Valley ate up the clock with two long drives in the second half.

Tabbed the state’s upset of the season by Cal-Hi, the game went a long way toward earning the Falcons the respect they had craved.

“I’ve always believed that for a program to get over a hump, you’ve got to win a big ballgame,” Eberhart said. “It made our kids believe they can beat anyone.”

It also sent the Falcons into a matchup with eventual Division II co-champion Los Alamitos, which beat Crescenta Valley, 28-10. The loss left the Falcons with a nice season, but little else.

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“We went a long way,” LaCom said, “but we didn’t go anywhere.”

Crescenta Valley failed to win the Pacific League title because it lost, 27-0, to Muir, which was unbeaten in league play. But the 1993, the Mustangs are without Coach Jim Brownfield, who resigned, and running back Saladin McCullough and quarterback Andy Colbert, who have graduated. In last year’s victory over Crescenta Valley, Colbert rushed for 200 yards in 11 carries and McCullough gained 113 in 17. Muir gained only five other yards.

Muir first-year Coach Jack Allen said Crescenta Valley is the team that worries him most. The teams will meet Nov. 5 at Glendale High.

Finally with some hope for a Pacific title, fans in La Crescenta have shown unusually high interest in Falcon football, LaCom said.

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“I was working at the (YMCA) and people just came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to the game,’ ” LaCom said. “People who wouldn’t have normally gone are fired up about it.”

The Falcons will open the season without quarterback Dave Fielder, also one of the area’s best punter/kickers. Fielder, who suffered a severely sprained left ankle in a scrimmage, will be replaced by either junior Tim Condie or junior John Watts.

Fielder could play if absolutely necessary, but it is not worth the risk in the opener, Eberhart said. Besides, when the Falcons are on offense, the football is rarely in the air. Crescenta Valley attempted 123 passes last season.

The schedule also favors Crescenta Valley. The Falcons’ nonleague opponents--La Canada, Alemany, Burbank, South Pasadena and Burroughs--were 14-36-1 last season. Crescenta Valley will open the league schedule against Hoover (1-9).

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It all creates something that hasn’t been around Crescenta Valley much in recent years: high expectations. “We’ve played on the expectations and I think our kids have responded with some real hard work,” Eberhart said.

“We weren’t used to (the positive publicity), but we’ve stressed to them it doesn’t mean anything until we win a few ballgames.”


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