Falcons seize opportunity against Bulldogs

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Aided by turnovers and short fields and served well by red-zone efficiency, the Crescenta Valley High football team built a first-quarter lead that would never be challenged Thursday night at Moyse Field.

And, considering that visiting Burbank played the Falcons dead even on the scoreboard the rest of the way, the first 12 minutes of Crescenta Valley's 35-14 Pacific League win may soon be remembered as the quarter that saved the Falcons' season, and possibly doomed the Bulldogs', as both squads needed a win to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt.

"This was a big win for us," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team entered the contest one of three teams, along with Burbank and Muir, that were tied for fourth place and the final automatic playoff spot in league before improving to 5-3, 3-2 in league. "We're real excited."

Crescenta Valley received some gift-wrapped opportunities from the Bulldogs from the very start and capitalized to the tune of three first-quarter scores, the first coming on a four-yard run by Marro Lee (135 yards in 21 carries) on the second play of a 12-yard drive set up by Jack Lutynski's interception of Austin Mowatt on the Bulldogs' opening possession.

"That was great because a couple weeks ago we were the team doing that," Schilling said. "Turnovers are the whole game. When you win the turnover battle, you're usually going to win the game. They made some mistakes and we were able to capitalize on them early."

Burbank (3-5, 2-3 in league) punted after three plays on its next possession and punted for a net gain of just nine yards to set up the Falcons with another short field at the Bulldogs' 32-yard line.

Quarterback Zac Wilkerson capped a four-play drive with a one-yard run for a 14-0 lead at the 6:38 mark.

Burbank mounted its first substantial drive of the night on its next possession, reaching the Falcons' 28-yard line before fumbling. Justin Springfield recovered the loose ball for the Falcons at the Burbank 44-yard line and Crescenta Valley kept marching down the field, completing a brisk five-play drive with a play-action pass from Wilkerson to Nick Ruiz for a 33-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 1:33 to play in the opening quarter. Ruiz had a big night for the Falcons, catching three passes, all for touchdowns of 33, 24 and 12 yards.

"They jumped on us pretty fast," said Burbank Coach Hector Valencia, whose team must now win its final two against Muir and Burroughs to have a shot at the playoffs. "I've got to give [CV] credit, their running game was awesome and they did a good job preparing against us and they rally took it to us."

Burbank got on the board just 30 seconds into the second quarter on an eight-yard run from Daniel Martinez, but Crescenta Valley added one more score in the first half, on a 29-yard touchdown pass form Wilkerson to Ruiz with 5:04 left.

Crescenta Valley left some openings for Burbank to get back in the game in the second half, coming up short trying to convert a run on a fake field-goal attempt on its opening possession and then fumbling away a punt return on the next possession. But the Bulldogs couldn't capitalize on the turnover and Crescenta Valley went up, 35-7, on its next possession after scoring on another hookup between Wilkerson and Ruiz at the 2:32 mark of the third.

The Bulldogs' offense continued to stall, but got another break when its punt at the end of the third quarter was fumbled away on the return and scooped up by Damian Lopez. Lopez had a clear path to the end zone, but the Bulldogs, who racked up 125 yards in penalties on the night, were flagged for an illegal block that nullified the touchdown.

Burbank also had a 53-yard touchdown run by Herman Castro called back on a hold that would have pulled the Bulldogs to within two touchdowns with 3:30 remaining.

"We obviously were a little undisciplined today," Valencia said. "I want to take responsibility for that. That's my job to prepare them and we will be a more disciplined team next week."

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