NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Not even a chewed-up field could play a role in stopping the Crescenta Valley High's boys' soccer team's high-powered offensive attack. For that matter, neither could Hoover.
Crescenta Valley, in search of its third straight Pacific League title, received a hat trick from Pavle Atanackovic en route to a 6-1 league road victory against Hoover on Wednesday afternoon.
"Last week, we changed our offensive formation by making a few small adjustments in terms of where we want to be," said Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Grant Clark, whose team improved to 6-0-6 and 2-0-2 in league and is ranked fifth in the latest CIF Southern Section Division IV poll. "We've been able to move the ball more fluidly and keeping possession of the ball is a huge benefit.
"It's helped us be able to wear down the defenders quickly."
Playing on a field that was partly muddy, the Falcons were able to tire out the Tornadoes (2-4-1, 1-2-1). They also took advantage of a miscue that led directly to the first goal scored by Atanackovic, the reigning All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year.
Atanackovic intercepted a sloppy clearing attempt by Hoover goalkeeper Malek Azadegan and tapped the ball into the empty net in the 20th minute to give Crescenta Valley a 1-0 advantage.
"In our first two league games, we've started off slow and we wanted a fast start [Wednesday] because we've had trouble playing on this field the last couple of years," said Atanackovic, an All-CIF pick who has scored seven goals in the last two matches to raise his total to a team-best 16. "We know that we have to step it up being the league champion and we have to do that by scoring.
"We've been trying to possess the ball more and create gaps so the other team doesn't get the ball. We are satisfied with this result."
Crescenta Valley extended the lead to 2-0 when Brian Ju lofted a 35-yard shot that eluded Azadegan in the 28th minute. Atanackovic made it 3-0 in the 32nd minute before the Falcons closed out the first-half scoring on a goal by Jaehoon Jung in the 35th minute.
The Falcons saw their string of 12 unanswered goals — dating back to a game-tying score on Friday against Burbank — snapped when Hoover's Sarkis Tumasyan converted a penalty shot in the 42nd minute to bring the Tornadoes to within 4-1.
Atanackovic, who scored the lone goal in Crescenta Valley's 1-0 win last season at Hoover, completed his scoring output with a penalty shot in the 55th minute to extend the lead to 5-1. It was Atanackovic's second straight hat trick after a four-goal effort Monday against Burroughs. Teammate Erick Trejo scored on a shot inside the right post in the 63rd minute to make it 6-1.
Hoover Coach Kevin Cadenas said the Tornadoes began to sag midway through the first half.
"We played pretty well in the first 20 minutes and then we made some mistakes that led to a couple of their goals," Cadenas said. "It's a disappointing loss and we now have to forget about it.
"CV's got a great team and there's a reason why they are back-to-back league champion. We now have to relax and be ready for our next game."
The teams will meet again at 3:15 p.m. Jan. 31 at Crescenta Valley.