LA MIRADA — After two possessions, the Crescenta Valley High football team found itself in good shape.
Two touchdowns catches by wide receiver Nick Ruiz left the Falcons with a sizable lead.
Then things came apart for Crescenta Valley, which had difficulty stopping La Mirada's passing attack once it finally had possession.
Crescenta Valley surrendered three touchdowns in the air and saw its season conclude Friday night with a 35-30 road loss against fourth-seeded La Mirada in a CIF Southern Section Southeast Division first-round contest.
"They are a power team that likes to pound you," said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, whose team finished 6-5 after tying for third in the Pacific League. "We stopped them on the ground, but they made the adjustments.
"We dared them to throw the ball and they just made the plays."
La Mirada (7-4) saw quarterback Gerry Myres throw three touchdown passes, all to 6-5 wide receiver Dallis Shipp. Myres completed nine of 14 passes for 216 yards.
Every time Crescenta Valley thought it had an answer, La Mirada, which will next face Arcadia in a second-round game Friday, had a response.
The Falcons were forced to play catch-up after the Matadores took the lead for good late in the second quarter.
"We kind of went into a stalemate and I have to see what changed toward the second part of the second quarter," Schilling said. "We came here and expected to win and they are good.
"We thought we would be a good matchup for them."
Crescenta Valley scored on its first possession when senior quarterback Zac Wilkerson, who had four total touchdowns, tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ruiz to make it 7-0 with 9:13 left.
After Crescenta Valley's Kevin Cooper recovered the ensuing kick, Wilkerson then lofted a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ruiz in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0 with 5:47 remaining in the opening quarter. Ruiz finished with 10 catches for 165 yards.
The Falcons ran 15 plays from scrimmage before La Mirada, which won the Suburban League title, had its first possession.
The Matadores overcame the sluggish start and cut the lead to 14-7 when Myres threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Shipp with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
La Mirada then scored a pair of touchdown four minutes apart in the second quarter. It tied the game at 14 when Myres connected with Shipp on a 16-yard pass with 7:31 left. La Mirada running back Johnny Hills gave the Matadores a 21-14 advantage on a 24-yard touchdown run with 3:35 remaining in the first half.
Crescenta Valley's defense forced a turnover on La Mirada's opening possession in the second half. Defensive back Jake Lutynski recovered a fumble at midfield, leading to a 21-yard field goal by Pavle Antanackovic that cut the deficit to 21-17 with 8:48 left in the third quarter.
La Mirada responded on its next drive when Myres threw a five-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Shipp to extend the lead to 28-17 with 6:18 left in the third stanza.
Wilkerson, who completed 19 of 33 passes for 293 yards, then scored on a two-yard run to bring the Falcons to within 28-24 with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
However, the Matadores saw Hills then score on an 80-yard run 14 seconds later to make it 35-24. Hills finished with 175 yards rushing in 16 carries.
Crescenta Valley, which also got 73 yards in 15 carries from Marro Lee, closed out the scoring when Wilkerson ran up the middle for a one-yard run with 1:28 left in the contest. An onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and the Matadores ran out the clock.
"We played hard, but then we had some mental lapses," Ruiz said. "We had trouble stopping their passing game and we had some broken coverage on a couple of plays."