As the top seed, the Crescenta Valley High football team came prepared in its quest to win a second CIF championship in five seasons.
With two key members on offense out with injuries, Crescenta Valley turned to its depth and impressive defensive unit to pass its first postseason test.
Brendan Pehar tossed two touchdown passes and the defense registered three sacks to propel host Crescenta Valley to a 20-11 win against Peninsula in a CIF Southern Section Division X opening-round contest at Glendale High’s Moyse Field.
Crescenta Valley (11-0) will meet host Eisenhower in quarterfinal contest next Friday.
The Falcons, who won the Pacific League championship for the first time since 2016, snapped a four-game postseason losing streak. Crescenta Valley won its first playoff game since 2014, when it won the Southeast Division crown.
“it’s a big win and a great way to get started,” said Crescenta Valley first-year coach Hudson Gossard, whose team forced three turnovers. “We got another great effort from our defense and it’s been that way the whole year.
“Brendon comes in for his first playoff start at quarterback and he tosses two touchdown passes. Those are the kind of things you need in order to win.
Crescenta Valley competed without starting quarterback Chase Cewnter and center Armen Erdoglyan. Center is recovering from a knee/leg injury sustained Oct. 25 and Erdoglyan appeared to have a foot injury.
Crescenta Valley took a 7-0 lead on an eight-yard touchdown run by Maximus Grant with 11:56 remaining in the second quarter. The running back finished with with 72 yards rushing in 13 carries overall.
Pensinsula (3-8; fourth in Bay League) trimmed the deficit to 7-3 on a 40-yard field goal by Joseph Rhodes with 5:38 to go in the first half.
Pehar, a junior who completed 13 of 22 passes for 172 yards, tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Chuck Meyer to give the Falcons a 14-3 lead with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
“That’s my first varsity touchdown,” said Meyer, a defensive end who had two sacks. “It was fun to do and our defense came through again.”
The Panthers closed to within 14-11 on a 16-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jack Haworth with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter. The Panthers converted on the two-point conversion run by Ricardo Punsalan to bring them to within three points.
Crescenta Valley closed out the scoring on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Pehar to Vincent Parrot with 5:04 left.
“I knew I needed to find a way to step in there,” Pehar said. “We were very anxious to get going and we wanted to get the win.
“I had to go out there and have fun and enjoy it.”
Crescenta Valley received one interception apiece from Angel Ochoa and David Baek. The Falcons got a fumble recovery from Aaron Garcia. Running back Colby Rees rushed for 54 yards in seven carries for the Falcons.
Haworth completed nine of 21 passes for 118 yards.