SANTA PAULA — On a night in which William Wang weaved his way through the Santa Paula High defense for 260 yards rushing, it was within the grasp of teammate Porter Hansen that the Crescenta Valley football team ultimately found a sigh of relief.
Hansen secured an onside kick with 1:39 left in Friday night’s nonleague game, giving way to Wang, who carried the ball three final times for the last 37 yards the Falcons would need to hold off the host Cardinals for a 26-21 victory in their season opener.
“I feel like we were so close to taking care of business and having a really good win and then we made it kinda ugly in the end,” said Paul Schilling, whose team led, 26-7, with less than nine minutes to go in the game. “A win’s a win, right?”
It was a win that came largely on the strength of Wang’s weary legs, as he ran 31 times for 260 yards and a first quarter touchdown from 19 yards out that put the Falcons up, 6-0.
“I believe we can run the ball against anybody we face,” said Wang, who also had an 83-yard touchdown run called back on a penalty.
It was one of 13 penalties for 93 yards on the night against the Falcons.
“The penalties would be the biggest thing for us to work on and getting in shape,” said Schilling, whose team dropped Santa Paula to 1-1.
Wang admitted he tired as the game went on.
“We’ve got a lot of things to work on, we all need to get in better shape,” Wang said. “I’ll be honest, some of those runs, I would’ve broken off if I wasn’t tired.”
Santa Paula broke off its biggest play of the night when Daniel Kohr busted loose for a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:05 to go in the ballgame, cutting the score to 26-14.
“It was really scary because they’re explosive. Our thing was to contain them. Physically we’re a lot bigger, but they’re fast and quick,” Schilling said. “When they got that punt return, they got all the momentum.”
And it carried over to another special teams letdown for the Falcons, as Santa Paula followed the punt return by recovering the ensuing onside kick. Ten plays later, Santa Paul scored on a Kohr touchdown catch and it was 26-21.
But the next time around, Hansen wrapped up the onside kick and the Falcons were able to wrap up the win.
It also finished a second half in which Santa Paula totaled 190 yards of offense in comparison to just 90 in the first half, another likely sign of the Falcons tiring.
On more than one occasion, the Falcons threatened to blow open the game, as the defense, which registered three sacks with two coming from David Hakobyan, caused four turnovers. John Psaltis had an interception and Sean Bloks, Forrest Graves and Andrew Kiorkof all recovered fumbles. But none of the turnovers turned into points.
After Wang’s first score, the point-after attempt saw the hold botched.
Quarterback Ben Rees, who completed five passes for 120 yards, snuck in the Falcons’ second score from two yards out with 7:35 left in the half. The ensuing two-point attempt saw Rees sacked, though, leading to a 12-0 halftime tally and a score emblematic of how ugly the game was.
Santa Paula came out quickly in the second half, scoring on a 10-play drive that encompassed 68 yards, but was made possible by a fourth-down, five-yard penalty against the Falcons that took the Cardinals from a fourth-and-nine situation to fourth and four.
“That penalty was a killer,” Schilling said.
With the score at 12-7, though, the Falcons responded quickly, using a 15-yard personal foul gaffe against Santa Paula to aid in a three-play drive that was keyed by a 35-yard reception by Jack Lutynski. Lutynski hauled in six catches for 128 yards as the only Falcon to tally a catch. He played havoc on Santa Paula’s cornerbacks as well, adjusting well on balls and dominating his man-coverage.
A second Rees sneak put the score to 19-7, as CV followed with its first made PAT of the game.
Graves rushed four yards up the gut, giving a nice second effort to get over the goal line for CV’s final score with 8:57 left in the ball game. It looked to be the nail in the coffin on a one-sided win at the time, but in the end proved to the game-winning score in a one-possession game.