GLENDALE — All season long, a Pacific League title has been on the mind of the Crescenta Valley High football team.
So the Falcons had long been thinking about Friday night's bout with Muir.
But, for whatever reason, CV committed a host of uncharacteristic mistakes — highlighted by four turnovers (three fumbles, one interception) and nine penalties for 80 yards — in a 39-26 loss to the Mustangs at Glendale High’s Moyse Field.
“We made so many mistakes, we had so many expectations for this game; we were so pumped,” said CV running back, defensive back and punter Kevin Hello, who finished with two touchdowns and 165 yards on 23 carries. “We had sessions last week before the Hoover game for [Muir]. Practice seemed perfect, we practiced perfectly all this week and then we just couldn’t do it tonight.”
The most glaring mistakes came when the Falcons (7-2, 4-2 in league) fumbled on their first three drives, while also holding the Mustangs (8-1, 6-0) to punts on their first three drives.
“Part of it, you have to give it to them,” Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling said of the fumbles. “They’re physical and they strip the ball, our guys hadn’t been hit like that.”
Still, CV was never really out of contention, even when it found itself down 19, 39-20, with 1:16 to play in the third quarter.
Crescenta Valley kept hope alive when quarterback Brian Gadsby (13 of 33, 137 yards, one touchdown, one interception) hit Chase Walker with a dart in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. The following two-point conversion run from Hello was stopped short to bring the Falcons within two scores, 39-26, with 10:19 left.
Comeback hopes got a huge shot in the arm when Sean Blok recovered his third fumble on the night — accounting for all his team’s takeaways — on the ensuing kickoff for the Falcons, who took over 32 yards out.
CV drove all the way down to the two on third and goal, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Falcons back to the 17 before they turned the ball over on downs at the seven.
“It was definitely hard,” Hello said of the loss. “I think it was more mental than nerves, we were pumped for this game, we were psyched out, but it was just mental errors.”
The Falcons got another chance to pull closer when they forced a three-and-out with 4:50 to play. Their fourth turnover of the game — an interception caught by Muir's Devonte Cravin (two fumble recoveries) — all but ended CV's chances.
Not only did Crescenta Valley’s league title hopes go out the window, its playoff hopes are still up in the air, with Burroughs (6-3, 5-1) and Burbank (7-2, 4-2) still battling for a first or second-place finish. Burroughs and Burbank will meet next Friday, while the Falcons will host their league rival, Arcadia.
“It’s easy because we play Arcadia,” Schilling said of how his team will bounce back. “We hate Arcadia, they’re our rival and we play on Thursday, so we don’t have to wait as long. We’re playing to be in the playoffs, we have to win that game. … We could be looking at a coin flip, if Burbank wins [against Burroughs] and we win we’re in a three-way tie for second. We’ll see what happens.”
After fumbling on its first three drives of the night, Crescenta Valley was somehow able to take a 14-12 lead on a one-yard sneak from Gadsby with 6:04 to play in the first half. That was short-lived, as Muir's John Brown returned the ensuing kickoff about 70 yards for a touchdown and an 18-14 Mustangs advantage. Muir increased its edge to 11, 25-14, on a three-yard run from Jaylyn Newson 1:03 before halftime.
“We said there were two things we couldn’t do, we couldn’t give them a touchdown on special teams and we couldn’t give them a touchdown on defense because that’s what they’re good at,” Schilling said, “and we did both in the first half, that was their first two scores.”
After another fumble recovery from Bloks, CV opened the second half scoring on a three-yard run from Hello. It brought the score to 25-20 with 5:26 to play in the third quarter, but Muir had a quick rebuttal to take a 32-20 edge, with one of the crazier plays of the game.
Mustangs quarterback Dejon Williams dropped back for a pass, but the play broke down and the fleet-footed Williams danced his way around a host of defenders in the pocket at his team’s own 45-yard line before breaking free and streaking down the field. Instead of being tackled around the 15, Williams pitched the ball to an alert Tony Claxton, who finished off the 55-yard touchdown run with 3:54 left in the third.
Williams (nine of 17 for 146 yards) then broke into the end zone with 1:16 left in the third quarter when he scored on a three-yard bootleg, set up by a 40-yard pass he threw to Marceles Clash (eight catches for 140 yards).
Muir’s offense did not come alive until the second half. Its first score came three minutes into the game when Cravin scooped up a CV fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Daniel Cervantes gave the Mustangs a 12-0 lead when he broke a 42-yard run on fourth and one with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
CV missed a number of opportunities in the game, as it failed to score any points when it held the ball within Muir’s 30-yard line on four occasions. The Falcons lost a fumble at their own 19 on their second drive of the game and then lost a fumble at the 29 on their following drive.
Down, 12-7, with 8:20 to play, Crescenta Valley also failed to score after Juho Kim recovered a pooch kick at Muir’s 12. The drive stalled after three plays and a 23-yard field goal attempt was pushed just left of the upright.