SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — On the cusp of a postseason berth, the Crescenta Valley High football team needed no reminder of what was at stake.
A win against rival Arcadia and a playoff ticket would be punched. A loss and a resurgent season would come to a conclusion.
On Thursday, the Falcons had their fears realized, dropping an intense Pacific League battle, 31-24, in the season finale.
“It’s not for a lack of effort,” first-year Crescenta Valley Coach Tony Zarrillo said. “The kids tried their hardest.”
The effort almost paid off with a victory, as the Falcons (5-5, 3-4 in league) led late in the second quarter by a 17-7 margin.
However things did not go their way in the second half, with the team turning the ball over twice, one which was returned for a touchdown, and failing to stop the Apaches (8-2, 5-2) on a key third-down conversion.
“[The game] was just going back and forth,” Arcadia Coach Jon Dimalante said.
Nonetheless, the Falcons had one final shot to even the score with 1:35 remaining in the game.
Following an 11-yard run by Casey Picard to give the Apaches a 31-24 advantage, Crescenta Valley started a drive on their own 20.
Thanks to three long receptions by Clay Sierra, including a 26-yarder on third and 19 on a wide-receiver reverse pass, Crescenta Valley marched to the Arcadia 25 with 24 seconds left.
A spiked ball and three incompletions sealed the Falcons fate.
“I felt all the way down to the last play, we had a chance,” Zarrillo said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Added Dimalante: “That was a nailbiter. I’m getting a little old for this.”
With a 17-14 lead coming out of the half, Crescenta Valley gave up the lead for good in the third.
Under heavy pressure, quarterback Scott Thompson attempted to throw the ball away, but it was tipped and intercepted by Picard, who returned it 46 yards for a 21-17 lead at the 1:35 mark of the third.
The Apaches added to the lead on a 41-yard field goal early in the fourth, keyed by a 37-yard pass on third and long.
The Falcons would respond with 5:40 left in the game when Ryan Eberhart, who had 112 rushing yards, broke off a 36-yard scamper to knot the score at 24.
But a three-and-out, followed by a 14-yard punt on the Falcons’ next possession, gave the Apaches a short field for the game-winning score.
Thompson finished with 215 total yards and two TD passes.
“We took some strides forward [this season], unfortunately not big enough strides,” Zarrillo said.