HomeBlocksFront-GridFalcons, Nitros, Tornados Set to Hit the Gridiron

Falcons, Nitros, Tornados Set to Hit the Gridiron

First published in the Aug. 13 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

A new season of football is on the horizon at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools. All three programs will have the benefit this year of full offseason programs for the first time in three years due to the pandemic, ramping up expectations for an exciting 2022 season.

CRESCENTA VALLEY

Crescenta Valley High will be looking to get back on track following a couple of rough seasons after going undefeated and winning the CIF title in 2019 in coach Hudson Gossard’s first season at the helm.
“Since [the beginning of] COVID we’ve struggled,” said Gossard, who is entering his fourth season heading the Falcon program. “The past two seasons for us have not been great, so we’ve got to get back to a winning record. It’s priority No. 1 and then hopefully building off of that and getting into the playoffs. Obviously, a cherry on top would be to win the Pacific League.”
Having just completed a full offseason practice and conditioning program has certainly helped.

Shade Schaefer, left, is Crescenta Valley High School’s “do-it-all guy offensively and defensively at the skill positions,” coach Hudson Gossard said.

“The offseason went great,” Gossard said. “Having this full offseason to build back the culture, to build back our strengths, I think hopefully we can get on the road to doing that.”
The Falcons will be looking for their “tight group of seniors” to lead the way.
“Our strength will be in our senior leadership. Two of the anchors of that are two of our key linemen, Mike Balian and Jordan Towns, who have both been part of the varsity team since their sophomore year,” Gossard said. “With their leadership on the offensive and defensive lines, they’ll be going both ways, they are a key component.”
Senior Jason Nelson will also be a leader and factor in the Falcons’ success.
Speedy senior Shade Schaefer figures to be instrumental on both sides of the ball.
“[Schaefer] is basically our do-it-all guy offensively and defensively at the skill positions,” Gossard said. “He is going to be the key in terms of our point production.”
At quarterback will be junior Jacob Deno, a third baseman on the baseball team, who was not in the original plans for the job and had not played the position until this spring.
“I don’t exactly know how it happened. He was playing other spots [last season] and we just didn’t think of putting him at quarterback,” Gossard said. “He was a starter as a sophomore on the baseball team. Last year in football he played on the lower levels, but he’s emerged as our starting quarterback. He’s got a good sense out there and very athletic [with his] scrambling ability as well as the ability to run the ball on his own.”
Another junior to watch is Andranik Saryan, whom Gossard describes as “a big, strong kid, so we are looking to use him in the running game too.”
The defensive line should be solid with its senior anchors. Schaefer should shine in the secondary along with senior Zach Dunlavey, as well as senior Calix Jemerson, who “athletically is off the charts.”
Juniors Nathan Martinez and Andranik Saryan are also emerging players for the Falcons.
“It’s just a matter of being ready, competing and seeing where you can go from there,” Gossard said.
CVHS opens its season against visiting West High School on Friday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m.

GLENDALE

The goal of this year’s football season at Glendale High is a winning record fueled by a successful offseason program.
“This is our first offseason of actually being able to, since I took over the program, work with these guys in the offseason — lifting, spring practice and a summer,” said Glendale coach Jacob Ochoa, who was hired just before COVID first shut down the school. “I’m trying to temper enthusiasm, but I like what I am seeing.”
Ochoa is hopeful about turning around recent history for the Nitros.
“Glendale hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, but it’s one of those things where you can see a path,” he added. “This team could win more games than they lose. It’s definitely trending in the right direction and I hope that equates to wins and losses this season as well.”
The Nitros are looking to a galaxy far, far away for motivation and goal orientation.
“We are very much ‘Star Wars’ themed. I’ve been Coach Dark Side for most of my career here. Our offensive motto is, ‘Together we can rule the galaxy.’ Our defensive motto is ‘Destroy all hope,’” Ochoa said. “We definitely have a Dark Side, ‘Star Wars’ theme going. We have the Jedi offense and the Dark Side defense. It’s a lot of fun.”
Glendale is returning all five starters on the offensive line, including senior Bryant Marte and junior Moises Zermeno, who are “the rocks,” according to their coach.
“That is a big strength for us,” Ochoa said. “We’re going to run the football.”
Sophomore Joseph Caballero will be the lead back. The coach also touts a receiving corps of six pass catchers, numbers they have not had in the past. The top receiver should be senior transfer Justin Melville; “we expect some big things out of him this year.”
Senior Daniel Autry, a track athlete, will also be a new element in the mix. “We’ve been trying to get him on the football team for years,” Ochoa said.
Throwing to them will be quarterback Jonathan Wells, a junior who played his freshman year before taking last season off. “He’s developed into an excellent leader,” Ochoa noted.
On defense, seniors Jayden Wilia and Ethan Faria will be counted on to pressure the quarterback. The secondary should also be a strength, including the likes of Melville and Mateo Gutierrez.
“We’re going to see a lot from our defensive backs kind of playing it as a team.”
Glendale, of course, finishes with the rivalry game versus Hoover, won last season by the Nitros.
“We are trying to make sure that bell stays here painted red and stays red for a long time,” Ochoa said.
Glendale will host Gabrielino High of San Gabriel in a nonleague game on Friday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m.

HOOVER

Junior Ethan Davis is returning as Hoover High School’s starting quarterback.

Hoover High made huge strides last season, winning its first five contests and posting its first winning season in years. The Tornados will look to build on that this season.
“The idea is to build a little bit at a time,” Hoover coach Azad Herabidian said. “Hoover football has had a lot of struggles over the past 30 to 35 years or so, even more over the the last four years [before last season]. So our approach is a slow build and putting our kids in positions where they are competitive. We felt like we did that last year, where our kids were able to go out there and compete, and they won games. We upped our schedule difficulty by one notch, trying to challenge our kids even a little bit more this year.”
Despite a relatively thin roster — the varsity will likely suit up a number of players ranging from the high 20s to the low 30s — it will be a more seasoned squad this year, working with the mantra, “Hard work pays off.”
“We had a lot of youth last year; most of them have returned, so we’re looking to build off that experience they had,” Herabidian said. “We had a lot of sophomores playing both ways [last season], so I’m excited to see their progress on the field this year.”
The Tornado offense will be “pro style” and look to run the ball as much as possible under new coordinator Vincent Stark. The lead back looks to be Cedric Lynum. The line will be anchored by Christian Izaguirre. Meanwhile, junior Ethan Davis will be back at quarterback.
“He’s trained a lot in the offseason to improve his throwing mechanics, so he’s going to be a strength for us,” Herabidian said of Davis.
Another strength will be the Tornado linebackers, including senior Vaghinak Sakanyan, who has a background in boxing, and junior Isaac Perez.
“[Sakanyan] is one of few four-year kids that we have, and he’s always been one of those kids you know is going to be a warrior out on the field,” Herabidian said. “[Perez] is just a smart kid, committed, shows up and has more experience playing football than most of the people on the team.”
The new-style defense will be under the guidance of new coordinator Marcus Sweet.
“It’s designed to essentially beat the spread,” Herabidian said.
The season will close with the traditional rivalry game versus Glendale, won last season by the Nitros.
“The kids are hungry for redemption.”
The Tornados open their season against visiting Mark Keppel High of Alhambra on Friday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m.

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