COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF:

LA CRESCENTA — For the most part, the starters have changed, with the select few returners at different positions.

The defense is new and the offense has returned to that of seasons past.

Following Crescenta Valley High football Coach Tony Zarrillo into his second season at the Falcons helm is a team that appears nothing like its 2007 form.

“Our attitude is a lot different,” senior quarterback Karsen Reedy said. “Now, everyone's optimistic, everyone wants to get better.”

Crescenta Valley did get better last year, improving to 5-5 after a 2-8 campaign in 2006. Still, the Falcons are looking for more.

“We're looking to improve even more,” Zarrillo said. “Our goal is always to make every effort to win [the Pacific] League.”

The fact that many don't expect that to happen is simply added incentive for Crescenta Valley.

“We want to compete with as many of the teams that kicked our butts last year as we can,” Reedy said. “A lot of people are predicting us not to be that good, but we're thinking different.”

A season ago, Reedy was fighting for carries as a running back and returning kicks. This year he'll lead a Falcons offense resurrected from years ago.

“It's a pretty typical spread offense,” said Zarrillo of the shotgun set that will showcase four- and five-receiver formations. “We are gonna run the ball, but we are definitely gonna throw the ball on a regular basis.”

Over an impressive summer, the Falcons and Reedy, in particular, grabbed notice at seven-on-seven tournaments.

“From an athletic perspective, he's wonderfully talented,” said Zarrillo of Reedy. “I really like Karsen at quarterback, he is one of the best kept secrets.”

Junior Harry Pessy, a standout sprinter in the spring, senior Ryan Eberhart, a returning All-Area selection and sophomore Daityevon McFadden will battle for reps at running back when not lining up in the slot.

The receivers will include two-way starters Matt Zilinsky and Jake Walker, both of them seniors, along with junior Mike Bako.

“He'll be one of our go-to guys,” said Zarrillo of Zilinsky.

Seniors Brendan Murphy and Nick Leon, at guard and tackle, respectively, look to anchor the offensive line. Other starters look to be junior center Jason Ro, junior guard Robbin Dumlao and senior Artin Pashai. Seniors Brian Casey, Marek Litomisky and Pierre Tasei and junior Alex Luna could also see reps.

“This year, our offense is gonna put up numbers,” Leon said. “Our defense just needs to get the turnovers to give our offense a chance.”

Leon will likely also start on the defensive line, as the Falcons make the switch from a 4-4 front to a 3-4 defense.

Juniors Sam Campbell and Michael Mendoza, along with senior Anthony Campbell, Murphy, Litomisky and Dumlao will all contribute across the line.

Walker makes the switch from safety to outside linebacker, essentially switching positions with Zilinsky.

Juniors Andrew Carcich and Kevin Rignot and Casey look to also make an impact at linebacker.

In the secondary, Bako and McFadden will be the corners, while Zilinsky, Tro Achekian and Matt Lim, both seniors, are competing for safety spots.

The likes of Casey, Leon, Murphy, Reedy, Walker and Zilinsky look to be the core of the squad, but Zarrillo knows there's a lot more to a team than that.

“As always, there are certain kids you count on,” he said. “But then, to make it come together, you have to have a few that you didn't anticipate.”

For now, Zarrillo anticipates a very competitive league, and one that his Falcons will be right in the thick of.

“I don't doubt for a minute it's gonna be very competitive,” he said. “If we can stay healthy, then we have a chance, I think, to be a very good team.”


?GRANT GORDON is the sports editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3225 or grant.gordon@latimes.com.

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