After two years of first-round exits from the postseason, Crescenta Valley High football looked to end that trend against visiting Mira Costa.
But the Falcons could not hold their lead against a frantic comeback by the Mustangs and Crescenta Valley fell 13-12 in another CIF Southern Section Division VI first-round playoff game Friday night.
"We just couldn't generate any offense in the second half," Falcons coach Paul Schilling said.
Crescenta Valley (8-3), the No. 3 seed, held a 12-0 advantage late into the third quarter, but couldn't hold on. It was the Falcons' third loss over the last four games as the team ranked at the top of Division VI for much of the season and predicted to win the Pacific League title finished third in league and lost for the third consecutive year in the first round of the playoffs.
The Falcons were pushed back near their end zone and elected to have quarterback Cole Doyle punt on third down. After that, Mira Costa (5-6) took over.
The quick kick gave the Mustangs a short field and they marched the 36 yards in 4:27 for their first points on a fullback dive from the one-yard line.
Throughout the second half, CV's offense sputtered and struggled to get a first down. This was the case on the ensuing drive after the Mira Costa score when the Falcons went three and out.
"They stoned us on defense and we couldn't get it done," Schilling said.
With the ball and all the momentum, Mira Costa once again drove a short field, this time going 43 yards.
The drive resulted in a 20-yard touchdown throw over the middle from Nick Carpino to Eddie Burga-Donovan.
Crescenta Valley got the ball back with 3:55 to go, but Doyle threw a desperate pass over the middle that was picked off by Mustang Malachi McMahon.
The visitors ran out the clock with hardnose running and the comeback was complete.
"[Mira Costa] found a little something. They wore on us," Schilling said.
Throughout the game, both teams leaned on their defense. The only points of the opening stanza came in the final minute when Falcon Chris Wood booted a successful 23-yard field goal.
In the first quarter moving into the second, Mira Costa went on two extended drives, but both ended with the CV defense clamping down and taking the ball away on downs.
The Falcons scored twice in unique ways in the final five minutes of the opening half. The Falcons defense pinned the Mustangs back in their end and forced a punt. However, the snap flew by the Mira Costa punter and out of the end zone, resulting in a safety.
CV soon after got the first touchdown of the contest using trickery.
Wood lined up for a 43-yard field goal try on fourth down and a mile to go. However, Doyle rose up from his spot as the holder and hurled a 26-yard touchdown pass down the right side to senior Jordan Nelson.
Doyle would finish eight of 24 for 87 yards with the one touchdown and one interception.
The Falcons looked primed to score again just before half.
In the final seconds with the ball at the one-yard line, the Mira Costa defense held strong, stuffing Doyle as he looked to sneak the ball in.
With the stop, the half ended with the hosts up, 12-0.
However, the points left on the field at the end of the half later loomed large.