About a half hour before the Crescenta Valley High football team concluded its nonleague season at Montebello on Aug. 31, Oilers coach Pete Gonzalez said he looked forward to the matchup.
“Crescenta Valley is very well-coached, they play with discipline and they execute the way we’d like to,” Gonzalez said.
Now, maybe that sentiment can be chalked up to coaching niceties, something one says about a peer that he or she likely doesn’t know well.
I would have thought the same had I not known Gonzalez.
No offense to coaches in our neck of the woods, but Gonzalez coaches in an area with better football, where teams like La Serna (Whittier), La Habra and La Mirada have won CIF championships.
His comment took me aback a bit because Gonzalez is a winner, having led a once powerful St. Paul football program to its last championship in 2007, back when it played in the Mission League against St. Francis and Alemany in Division III.
Gonzalez took over the reins from Marijon Ancich, who retired as the all-time winningest high school football coach in Southern California history.
So, it takes a lot to impress Pete Gonzalez and compliments aren’t token gifts.
In 2007, Gonzalez’s St. Paul squad would have destroyed Tony Zarrillo’s Crescenta Valley Falcons team.
Yet, a little more than a decade later, Gonzalez was speaking highly of Crescenta Valley’s Paul Schilling, a coach whose fun-loving nature and good humor belie his tactical skill, adaptability and management abilities.
The Falcons were somewhat sloppy that Friday evening, but still walked away with a 44-26 victory to improve to 3-0 and remain one of two undefeated Pacific League teams heading into this week.
When Schilling hears praise, the veteran brushes it off and downplays his success.
Yet, it’s foolish to dismiss what the former assistant coach under Zarrillo has accomplished.
Schilling took over in 2010 in maybe the final era of league coaching giants highlighted by Burroughs’ Keith Knoop, Arcadia’s Jon Dimalante and Muir’s Ken Howard.
Over that stretch, Schilling has become the dean of Pacific League coaches with a 64-27 record, 38-18 league mark, two Pacific League championships, five playoff appearances and a rare CIF championship.
This season is Schilling’s ninth. Only one other league coach — Arcadia’s Andrew Policky — has been at his current post at least five years.
When I covered the Pacific League years ago prior to landing at the Times Community News, Crescenta Valley was the proverbial “nice team.”
In the five years prior to Schilling’s promotion, the squad finished 27-28 with two playoff appearances and a pair of runner-up finishes in league.
Success didn’t happen overnight, though.
Crescenta Valley was 15-16 in its first three years under Schilling with a 9-12 league record, a playoff one-and-done and a combined 3-9 record against Muir, Burbank, Burroughs and Arcadia.
Schilling’s first triumph over Burroughs and Knoop came in the magical fall of 2014 when the Falcons captured a CIF Southern Section championship.
While Schilling still carries a losing record against Burroughs (3-5), his Falcons have won three of their last four matchups versus the Indians, who are on coach No. 3 since 2014.
Schilling’s record now stands at 5-3 each against Muir and Arcadia and 4-4 versus Burbank, while his squads have dominated Glendale, Hoover and Pasadena with a 21-3 mark.
His program has also become much more consistent with five straight winning seasons and four consecutive postseason berths.
Last year, in which Crescenta Valley finished 8-3 and lost in the first round of the playoffs, is now considered a “down year.” Half the squads in the area could only hope for such failure.
Those results have netted Schilling and the Falcons attention and admirers inside the area and beyond.