GLENDALE — Long before the grueling seven-week stretch of Pacific League play begins, Foothill Boulevard is a road well traveled for the Crescenta Valley High football squad.
The players and coaching staff know the boulevard well from shopping and visiting eating establishments and video stores. It's also the road traveled when the Falcons meet teams in the nonleague portion of their schedule in Verdugo Hills, St. Francis and La Cañada.
Crescenta Valley will play the exact schedule it played last year en route to finishing second in league behind powerhouse Muir and earning a trip to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs.
Starting with competing against neighboring nonleague schools helped set the table last season for the Falcons, who will open their season at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 against Verdugo Hills at Glendale High's Moyse Field. Crescenta Valley will then embark on a two-game road trip against St. Francis at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 and 7 p.m. Sept. 25 against La Cañada before starting league play at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 against Burbank at Moyse Field.
“It's fun playing the schools along Foothill Boulevard because it adds to the community in terms of them being our neighbors,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Tony Zarrillo, who was named the All-Area Coach of the Year after guiding the Falcons to a record of 9-3 and 6-1 in league last season. “In some instances, the kids and families know each other from the other team, and it breaks out a great degree of interest that you might not get from someplace else.
“When we play those three teams, we'll see things that we just might see during the course of league. In the era of the spread offense, you might see different things run by one of the teams in our league.”
Crescenta Valley, which returns the likes of All-Area selections Harry Pessy and Mike Bako, went 2-1 last season in its three-game stretch against Verdugo Hills, St. Francis and La Cañada. It posted 39-7 wins against Verdugo Hills and La Cañada, but suffered a 27-12 loss to St. Francis.
The Falcons then jump into the Pacific against a Burbank squad that went 6-6 and also reached the second round of the postseason. Crescenta Valley handed Burbank a 20-12 setback last season.
“Burbank ought to be good because they have some great returning players,” Zarrillo said. “I know they will have a new coach, and how the change plays out remains to be seen.”
Then the Falcons will play rivals Glendale and Hoover at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 and 16, respectively, at Moyse Field.
The Glendale tilt will be one worth watching since the Nitros will be piloted by former Crescenta Valley Coach Alan Eberhart. Eberhart coached the Falcons for the better part of 14 seasons, establishing an overall 89-58-1 record to go with five Pacific League titles.
“Glendale's always going to be a rivalry,” said Zarrillo, whose team posted a 21-13 win against the Nitros last season. “It's a district competition and with Coach Eberhart being there, it just makes it that much more intriguing.”
The Falcons will then meet Hoover, which suffered a 47-7 loss to the Falcons last season.
Zarrillo, a Hoover graduate, said he doesn't mind playing two neighborhood rivals on consecutive weeks.
“I just don't look into the back-to-back aspect of things,” Zarrillo said.
Up next for the Falcons will be a date against Muir at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at Moyse Field. The Mustangs picked up a convincing 32-6 win against the Falcons last season at Muir.
“We play better against Muir at home then over there,” Zarrillo said. “We have a tendency to play better against them at our place, but you know that Muir will still have speed and quality athletes.”
The Falcons will then wrap up the final three weeks of the season with games against Pasadena at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Pasadena City College, followed by a road contest against Burroughs at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 and at home against rival Arcadia at 7 p.m. Nov. 12. The Falcons defeated those three teams last season.
“I don't know much about Pasadena, but I know they'll be competitive,” Zarrillo said. “We have a legendary rivalry with Burroughs and Arcadia will always be tough against us.”