GLENDALE — Through missed scoring opportunities and turnovers, the first half of Thursday night’s Pacific League game against visiting Burroughs High was a case of the Crescenta Valley football team beating itself.
For the final 24 minutes of the contest, however, Burroughs running back Zander Anding proved to be more than capable of finishing the task himself, running for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns after halftime to seal a 35-22 victory for the league-unbeaten Indians at Moyse Field.
“He’s legit and he’s really good and they block really well for him,” Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling said of Anding, who rushed for a total of 368 yards and three scores on the night, his fourth straight game with more than 300 yards on the ground.
On the season, Anding had amassed 1,901 yards and 19 touchdowns.
On the very first play of the Indians’ possession following an eight-play, 72-yard Crescenta Valley march to pull within 28-22 on a two-yard Marro Lee run with 4:58 left in the game, Anding ripped off a backbreaking 65-yard run down the right sideline for the final margin of victory.
“I was tired, I was completely out of breath, but the team’s energy just kept me going,” said Anding, whose team, ranked 10th in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division, improved to 4-3 and 4-0 in league. “Once again, the linemen didn’t stop, they just gave me a wide-open hole and I hit it.”
Crescenta Valley (4-3, 2-2), which was led by 204 total yards from Lee — 121 rushing on 28 carries and 83 more on nine receptions — never led in the game, trailing after the Indians’ very first play from scrimmage when Eli Peppmuller hit a wide-open Jose Pereya for a 69-yard touchdown on a halfback-option play that caught the Falcons completely by surprise.
The Falcons would go on to reach the Indians’ red zone on their next two drives, but came away with nothing on each after a missed field goal and an interception, respectively.
The pick of Falcons quarterback Zac Wilkerson (21 of 27 passing for 287 yards and a touchdown) by Peppmuller set the Indians up at their own seven-yard line, but Anding slipped a couple tackles and was off on a 93-yard run to put Burroughs up, 14-0, at the 10:28 mark of the second quarter.
Crescenta Valley once again moved the ball fairly easily on its next possession, only to see Lee lose a fumble to Burroughs’ Jose Bandala on the Indians’ 24-yard line.
“Two turnovers, it’s a killer,” Schilling said. “When you play a team like that and you know they’ve got a guy better than anybody you have, you’ve gotta make all those plays.”
But the Falcons effectively stopped Anding and Co. for the remainder of the first half and got back in the game at 14-10 on a 33-yard field goal by Pavle Atanackovic at the 1:59 mark and a one-yard touchdown run by Lee with just 24 seconds left after the Indians had to punt from their own three-yard line.
Burroughs answered on the first drive of the second half, traveling 82 yards — 79 of them on the legs of Anding — in just under 2:30 to bolster the lead to 21-10.
The Indians then appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open when their next drive, fueled by 51 more rushing yards from Anding, reached first-and-goal at the Falcons’ five-yard line with just over six minutes in the third. But Burroughs gave Crescenta Valley a reprieve with a bad snap that went for a 23-yard loss with a 15-yard personal foul penalty against Burroughs tacked on to the end of the play. One play later, quarterback Brad Hunt was sacked for a 14-yard loss, killing the drive completely.
Burroughs had 65 yards worth of penalties in the game, including a couple of holding calls that nullified additional long runs by Anding.
“We’ve got to clean that up quick,” Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said. “We can’t have [Anding] running for that many yards and having them called back.”
With 4:57 left in the third, Crescenta Valley mounted a 71-yard drive that hinged on a fourth-down rushing conversion by Lee at midfield and ended with Wilkerson’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Nick Ruiz (111 yards on eight catches) with 15 seconds left. Ruiz would drop a two-point conversion pass, however, as the Falcons attempted to make it a three-point game.
“We kept battling back,” Schilling said. “I can sleep tonight [after] a great effort.”
The failed conversion didn’t matter much, however, when Hunt found tight end Ike Nwachie over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 9:11 left.
“We’ve got to be able to execute [the passing game] when they’re trying to stop the run,” said Knoop, who saw Hunt and Peppmuller combine for a modest 136 passing yards, but also for two key touchdowns that were the difference in the game. “[Hunt’s] got a really good arm, but we’ve got to be able to be more proficient throwing the ball.”