Falcons face top-seeded Chargers

GLENDALE — In the playoffs, every game is tough.

Like the Crescenta Valley High football team’s first-round victory over California on Friday, which came down to a big play for a late touchdown and a gutsy call for a two-point conversion to take the final lead.

On the difficulty scale, this Friday’s 7 p.m. second-round matchup at CIF Southern Section Southeast Division No. 1-seed Charter Oak represents an unparalleled challenge for the Falcons, however.

It’s a game they are approaching with both confidence and caution.

“We can use the California game for momentum,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Tony Zarrillo, whose team is fresh off a come-from-behind 22-21 first-round victory over the Condors at Moyse Field. “We can take away that good feeling and try to carry it over against Charter Oak.

“We have to keep things as positive as we can. When you get to this point [of the playoffs], it’s always going to be a different challenge.”

Charter Oak (10-0-1) stormed its way to an unbeaten Miramonte League championship and last week blew out Almont League runner-up Bell Gardens, 55-15, in a first-round home victory.

The Chargers’ success isn’t a recent development, either. Charter Oak, located in Covina, has won or shared its league title six of the last seven years and has advanced to at least the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons.

This year’s team is led offensively by quarterback Chris Allen, who has passed for 1,627 yards and 20 touchdowns. Allen is also second in rushing on the team with 646 yards and seven touchdowns behind Adam Muema (1,607 yards and 22 touchdowns).

The Chargers defense is allowing just under 18 points per game on the season.

“We are playing the top team in the division, but there are upsets all of the time,” Zarrillo said. “It’s a matter of preparation and attitude.

“Charter Oak has some very good players, but so do we.”

Against California, Crescenta Valley’s offense rolled up 454 yards of offense from scrimmage, while the defense held the Condors to just 240.

Harry Pessy, the Falcons’ leading rusher, was limited to 61 yards rushing, but was a frequent target for quarterback Karsen Reedy, as he finished with 91 yards receiving.

Pessy ran in the game-winning conversion after a 72-yard touchdown connection between Reedy and Jake Walker.

The key for the Falcons will be to keep Charter Oak from taking control of the game early and playing as near mistake-free football as possible.

“The challenge for us this week is to be able to prepare as well as we can,” Zarrillo said. “It’s going to take everything we’ve got and then some.”

 GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at gabriel.rizk@latimes.com.

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