LA CRESCENTA — In a Pacific League that is shaping up to be pretty top heavy, the Crescenta Valley High football team may be one of the most unproven commodities.
That's not to say that the Falcons, who finished third in league last year and advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, aren't contenders. They would seem to have plenty of talent funneled in from the program's fertile lower levels.
It's just that much of it is unproven at the varsity level, as only a handful of players are back from last year's team and nearly every key starting position has been reassigned.
"We're very unproven," said Coach Paul Schilling, a longtime CV assistant and lower-level coach, who took over for Tony Zarrillo. "I don't want to say rebuilding because we're not rebuilding, but everybody's just inexperienced. We are not young. I keep thinking that [we are] but we have a lot of seniors. It's just that they haven't played a lot of varsity football."
The Falcons' new offensive lineup has looked sharp over the summer, winning two passing league championships, and the defense has been tweaked a bit to maximize the talents of a largely all-new cast.
It appears the Falcons won't get the full picture of what they have until they actually kick off their season at 7 p.m. Friday at Verdugo Hills, but optimism abounds among the players.
"We're all coming together," senior linebacker/offensive tackle Bryan Luna said. "We all have a lot of energy going into practice and towards the games."
"We have lot of new guys and it's working out pretty good," senior wideout/cornerback Nico Domingo said. "They're stepping up, they're doing the right thing."
Offensively, the Falcons will run more or less the same spread offense that flourished last year with a cast led by quarterback Kyle Cota and running back Harry Pessy.
"We'll run the ball a little bit more, but we're mostly in the spread," Schilling said.
Junior Zac Wilkerson emerged as the starter after spending the summer in a battle for the position with St. Francis senior transfer Paul Perigini.
"They had kind of been splitting time most of the summer," Schilling said. "Just recently, we've gone more with Zac as Paul has become a starter on defense. It's been a good transition."
Domingo, junior Marro Lee and senior Kevin Fernandez will be the primary ball carriers in the Falcons' single-back formation.
"They're receivers who also run that rocket we run where we hand it off to guys in motion and give it to them around the edge," Schilling said. "That's what those guys do."
The offensive line will consist of senior Patrick Arnold at right guard, senior Adam Fletcher at left guard, junior Nathan Sarreal at center and seniors Garrett Stoudt and Luna are the starting tackles.
"All of our line, except for the junior are returning varsity players, so we have a lot of experience there," Luna said. "We can trust Zac at quarterback and he's good under pressure, but I feel like the offensive line is going to have to lead us."
At wideout, the Falcons will look to junior Nick Ruiz, senior Mark Sereno, and sophomore Sean Johnson, and Domingo and Fernandez will be targeted also.
Senior soccer standout Pavle Atanackovic will handle the kicking and punting duties.
"I think, overall, we have good execution, we have tough players, players that really love football and really want to win," Wilkerson said. "I'm very excited. I think I can lead this team. We have great receivers."
Schilling is scrapping the 4-3 defensive scheme the Falcons relied on last season and has installed a 3-4 look as a throwback to the Falcons teams from the early part of the previous decade.
"We're kind of using that as a guide," Schilling said. "The 3-4 gives you a lot of other things you can do out of it."
Luna and senior Wes Berg will be the starting inside linebackers with seniors Alec Traber and Chris Fierro starting on the outside.
The down linemen are Stoudt, Ben Thomason and Sarreal.
"We're running a different scheme this year, so that should help us out," Luna said. "We have some returning guys on defense who have a lot of experience and we're just going to try and blitz a lot and smack people in the mouth."
Domingo has one corner spot locked down, while senior Levi Walker and junior Kevin Cooper are in the mix for the other. Senior Tyler Martinez will play free safety and Perigini is the strong safety.
"We're going to have to rely on our defense," Domingo said. "Our defense is going to make stops."
The Falcons begin league play on Oct. 1 against Glendale.
"On paper, every team in the league has better guys and is more polished than they were last year," Schilling said. "The league is good, it's solid.
"Our goal will always be going into the season to try and win the Pacific League championship. [To] be there at the end, be in the hunt for the league championship and try and get into the playoffs."
2010 CV SCHEDULE
2010 CV SCHEDULE
Fri. at Verdugo Hills, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 vs. St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. La Cañada, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 at Glendale, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 8 vs. Hoover, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 15 at Muir, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 22 vs. Pasadena, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 28 vs. Burroughs, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 5 at Burbank, 7 p.m.*^
Nov. 12 at Arcadia, 7 p.m.*
*denotes Pacific League game
^denotes at Burroughs High
Home games at Glendale High