SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — For Marro Lee and the rest of the Crescenta Valley High football team, Friday's game against La Cañada was more than just a nonleague affair.
It was about Gordon Warnock, the longtime Falcon "legend" who died Wednesday morning.
It was about honoring a coach who taught "life lessons to men."
It was about playing hard for a mentor "not only loved football, but loved the kids."
It was also about making sure that they made their former coach proud.
Led by Lee's 231-yard, three-touchdown performance, the Falcons rallied from 10-point deficit in the final eight minutes to post a 38-34 victory at Moyse Field.
"It was a hard night," Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling said.
Warnock, who guided the Falcons to their lone CIF championship in 1973, coached in the area for more than 40 years. He died in his sleep at his La Crescenta residence on Wednesday. He was 79.
He was remembered throughout Friday night.
The 30 seniors who Warnock coached on the Falcon freshman team four years ago served as captains. Crescenta Valley held a moment of silence for Warnock before the game.
Lee had 159 yards on the ground in the first half as the Falcons held a 21-20 lead at the half. He slowed down in the second half, and the Spartans capitalized.
La Cañada, which has lost four straight to the Falcons, took a 27-24 lead on Scott Gray's 16-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Lee fumbled on the Falcons' first play of their ensuing drive, and the Spartans scored another touchdown three minutes later to take a 34-24 lead when Gray hit Matt Faber for an eight-yard score. Lee rushed for just 44 yards, but he scored four times.
Crescenta Valley (2-1) simply returned to its strength in the ground game to close the margin.
"We let a few creases open up and we had trouble putting bodies on them and they exploited it," Spartan Coach Dan Yoder said.
Falcon quarterback Zac Wilkerson had a three-yard touchdown run with 6:18 to play to make the score 34-31.
After the Spartans drove for nearly four minutes, the Falcons had an opportunity to take the lead as they started the game-winning drive on their own 36. Nine plays later, Lee sprinted in for a 14-yard touchdown run and the lead. Captain Bryan Luna, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Falcons, intercepted Gray's pass on the Spartans' first play to seal the win.
The Falcons released balloons with the initials "GW" after the game as Warnock's son, Scott, and his daughter, Julia, looked on.
"The community, the team, and the school meant so much to my dad," Scott Warnock said. "It's just satisfying to see that returned this game."
Gordon Warnock's former players and colleagues had plenty to say about a man they admired.
Said Phillip Salazar, a former Falcon quarterback who graduated in 2005: "I'll always remember the way he treated us. Not only did he teach us football, but he taught life lessons to men."
Added Falcon volleyball Coach John Nelson: "He was a great coach, a great person and a great Falcon."
Said former Crescenta Valley principal Linda Evans: "What made Gordy so special was not only did he love football, but he loved the kids. He was greatly respected and admired by all the football coaches. He's one of the great ones."
Funeral services for Warnock will be held Oct. 9 at La Cañada Presbyterian Church.