LA CRESCENTA — With the departure of last year’s starting running back, quarterback, middle linebacker, top receiver and All-CIF kicker, there’s certainly some shoes to fill for the Crescenta Valley High football team.
But there would seem to be plenty of combinations among the 55-man roster for Falcons Coach Paul Schilling to try as he looks for the right fits to fill in this year’s depth chart and a nice collection of returning talent that he hopes will get the team off to a flying start when it opens the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Santa Paula.
An all-senior front line that includes three returning starters will be the stabilizing element in an offense that will see senior William Wang make the leap from backup to feature ballcarrier, while juniors Joe Torres and Ben Rees will split snaps at quarterback, at least in the early going.
“We might even go the first few games and use it truly as preseason and split time,” said Schilling, whose team went 6-5 and 4-3 in the Pacific League to make a CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoff appearance. “Whoever starts doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the better guy. ...[We want to see] who’s going to react the best with what group.
“In the first game they definitely will both play.”
The success of either of the Falcons’ first-year varsity quarterbacks figures to depend the offensive line, led by guards Andrew Kiorkof and Naz Erdoglyan and tackle Ryan Powell, who are all returning.
Defensive tackle Gev Hakobyan will also start at center this season, while Mitchell Stoudt fills the other tackle position.
“They’re our main guys,” Schilling said of the O-line. “We’re going to go to battle with our big guys.”
Wang proved to be a capable runner while spelling All-Pacific League back Marro Lee last season when Wang rushed for 525 yards and five touchdowns.
“He had some big carries [last year], he’s a player,” Schilling said.
Sophomore Kyle Tavizon, who Schilling called “a big part of the future here” will be Wang’s backup.
“The running game is going to work pretty well in our favor and what’s actually going to work off the running game is the play-action,” Erdoglyan said. “But we’re definitely going to try to pound it more than we did last year, but that’s just because of our personnel. We’ve got a really good running back and a pretty good O-line.”
Schilling said senior tight end Porter Hansen will see a good share of balls thrown his way and the Falcons also have senior returners Jack Lutynski and Chad Eggertson, as well as sophomore Connor Van Ginkel, to replace graduated all-league wideout Nick Ruiz.
But, in part because of the inexperience of the quarterbacks, and partly because of the past success of Wang and the offensive line, Schilling said the Falcons’ playbook will be skewed more toward the run this season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” Wang said. “I can’t wait to carry the ball on Friday night.”
On defense, the familiar 4-3 scheme will be back in place, but with one notable absence in the center of the field.
“We lost a lot of big guys on the defensive side,” Lutynski said. “We have a lot of shoes to fill.
“We have a big shoe to fill at middle linebacker with the loss of Nathan Sarreal.”
Replacing the all-league Sarreal will be senior Paul Gamez, who will be flanked by senior John Psaltis on one side and either sophomore Sean Bloks or junior Austin Brines on the other.
Eggertson, the Falcons’ lone returning all-league player, is leader of the secondary at safety opposite Jeff Saengsri. The corners will be junior Kevin Hello and either Tavizon or senior Jake Dempsey.
Up front, the ends will be Hansen and sophomore Davo Hakobyan, with his brother Gev in the middle. The other interior spot will be filled by a mix of two-way offensive linemen and newer players.
“We’re all set,” Eggertson said. “We’ve got our offense settled in and our defense is looking real good.”
According to Schilling, it will take no less than a committee of specialized players to offset the loss of kicker Pavle Atanackovic, the team’s only All-CIF honoree last season.
Travis Palozzolo will kick field goals, while junior Chris Rivera will punt and senior Erik Adamyan will kick point-after attempts.
Crescenta Valley plays its home opener Sept. 14 at Moyse Field against La Cañada and begins league play the following week at Muir.
“We’re a young group, we have a bunch of up-and-coming guys,” Lutynski said. “We look pretty set, like we’re ready for Santa Paula.”