After months of preparation and anticipation, a group of area football teams will now have the opportunity to put all the practice to the test.
“That is the thing, you do all this summer stuff but you never really know until you actually get into shoulder pads and a helmet,” Crescenta Valley football coach Hudson Gossard said.
It’s time for high school football at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools and all three are geared up and ready to go.
At Crescenta Valley High, there are some distinct goals surrounding the upcoming season.
“Since 2019 we haven’t won a home game, so that is one of our goals,” said Gossard, who also stressed the importance of remaining healthy. “Kind of going along with that, we haven’t had a winning record since 2019. So [a goal is] a winning record and then building from there.”
The coach feels good about the senior leadership of the squad, including Jacob Deno, who will be back at quarterback after first playing the position last season as a junior.
“Having that year under his belt, having that experience, I think is really going to be big for him,” Gossard said.
Another senior tapped to lead the way is Cristian Flores, a key cog at running back and safety. Additionally, Jake Dulavey, who is a returning starter, and senior Michael Clark, a two-way lineman, also figure to be key contributors. Others are Jackson Roehr at wide receiver and defensive back, and Mateo Soriano, who has “made really big strides this year,” Gossard said.
Falcons senior Lachlan Blunt, a versatile three-year starter, is also primed to contribute. Blunt also starts on the basketball team, runs track and field, and plays saxophone in the jazz band.
“He’s like a renaissance man. He’s a boy scout. He’s everything,” Gossard said. “He’ll be a big part of what we do this season. We really need him to make his impact.”
Another senior, Andranik Saryan, is back from breaking his femur last season. He now has a metal rod in his leg and is ready to play both ways at inside linebacker and running back.
While the Falcons are feeling well-prepared at the skilled positions, the depth of the offensive and defensive lines may come into play.
“You’ve got some guys that are going to have to be going both ways and that’s just the way it is,” Gossard said.
Youth will also be served, as sophomores Xavier Thompson and Leonidas Grant are primed to contribute at the varsity level. Grant, a running back, is the younger brother of Max, who was a star running back on Crescenta Valley’s 2019 CIF championship team.
In a very rare occurrence in the history of the Falcons program, a freshman – Julian Savery — will be starting on the varsity team.
“He’s going to play receiver for us,” Gossard said. “His speed, his quickness, his physicality already as a freshman [are there]. We feel he has the tools already that he can be a big part of this team.”
Two games prior to league play stand out for Crescenta Valley. After close losses to Eagle Rock and La Cañada last season, the Falcons would like to “get those back this year,” according to Gossard.
The Falcons open Pacific League play on Sept. 29, hosting John Muir High of Pasadena.
“Obviously we’d like to win league, but that is not one of our top priorities right now. It’s ‘can we get back to what we’re used to seeing here at Crescenta Valley?’ That is an above .500 season, tough hard-nosed football and competing in the league.”
There is a new coach heading Glendale High School’s football program this season in Manuel Lemus, who took over in mid-June.
Lemus started coaching in 2007 at his alma mater, Cathedral High in Los Angeles, as an assistant. He then was on the staff at Burbank High for eight years before spending the last four years at West Hills Chaminade as defensive coordinator. Lemus has a young daughter and wanted to be closer to his Glendale/Burbank-area home when the Nitros job opened up.
“Playing fast, playing up-tempo offense and just being very aggressive defensively,” Lemus said of his outlook for his team, which currently has 35 players. “A new scheme, it’s stuff that I’ve been around and I like, so there are multiple sets with formations and a lot of motions for the offense. Defensively, different coverages with different kinds of packages so a lot of the kids can get a chance to play.”
One key leader for the Nitros will be two-way senior lineman Freddie Rios Barrientos.
“The kid has pretty much kept the team as a group together while there was no coach. He kind of led all the workouts during the offseason and communicated through the [athletic director] on what the team needed,” Lemus said. “He’s been a leader since day one.”
Also in a leadership role will be running back and linebacker senior Alfred Intriago.
“His work ethic on the field and in the weight room has been helpful, especially for the young guys to lean on,” Lemus said.
Glendale senior Austin Aldrete will also a key team leader.
“He leads through example,” Lemus said. “He doesn’t do a lot of talking. He’s just always on time and makes sure everyone is in the right spot on the defense. He’s pretty much the quarterback of the defense.”
Nitros sophomore Kyle Robertson, a transfer from Loyola High in Los Angeles, will be key at receiver and as a nickel back.
“He’s the hardest-working kid on the team,” Lemus said. “He’s probably the most gifted athlete that we have.”
Another sophomore who is expected to leave a mark is Rudy Cuellar, who has the ability to help teammates understand the new schemes.
At quarterback will be Jonathan Wells, a senior who saw some action at the position last season.
“He grown a lot,” Lemus said. “It’s a different offense that he is running, but he’s got a good grasp of what we are trying to do.”
One of the anchors of the offensive and defensive lines will be senior Greg Terzian, who also plays lacrosse.
“He contributes a lot on the field and off the field, too,” Lemus said.
At center will be junior Mark Dalces, who “has a motor and plays with a lot of heart.” Also key in the trenches will be two-way lineman senior Alejandro Maravilla.
Glendale opened the season with a road game at Duarte and will conclude the season by hosting rival Hoover in the Battle for the Victory Bell.
“I want to get this team to have at least a winning season for the first time in a long time. That is the No. 1 goal,” said Lemus, whose new program has not finished above .500 since 2008-09. “We just want to turn the page on whatever has happened in the past as far as the losing goes and just try to build something new and something that kids and the community can be proud of.”
The benefits of experience are at play for Hoover this season.
“We have the most experienced group we’ve had in the last five years that I have been here,” Tornado head coach Azad Herabidian said. “It’s exciting to see some of these guys that have been with the program for four years mature into seniors. [I’m] looking forward to seeing them on the field playing and doing what they love to do.”
Hoover has a tougher schedule of opponents this season, and that is by design.
“This year our goal is to challenge ourselves,” Herabidian said. “In the last three years [since restarting a varsity program], it’s the most difficult schedule we’ve played. So our goals are to challenge ourselves and try to meet those challenges the best that we can.”
Hoover will be running a pro-style offense featuring single back sets just like last season, although this campaign they will be looking to throw more.
“It’s a little bit of an old-school offense,” Herabidian said. “It’s not a spread like what a lot of other schools are running these days. It’s unique to the Glendale area. Glendale College used to run a similar offense.”
Hoover will be looking for leadership from Ethan Davis, a senior who has been in the program for four years, as well as seniors Isaac Perez and Daniel Baneham.
“These are kids that have put in a lot of work,” Herabidian said. “These are kids of sound character who are just wonderful kids that have a positive influence on the team.”
Hoover juniors Sipan Hakopian and Javon Lymon will also be counted on to lead the way as captains, joining the three seniors.
Davis will be the primary quarterback once again, but also look for some offensive sets featuring sophomore AJ Francisco at the position as Davis goes out or lines up elsewhere.
Lymon, Joseph Dizon and Joel Jauregui will be key receivers. Junior Ryan Oh will be “getting a lot of reps at running back.”
The offensive and defensive lines should be a strength for the Tornados.
“Our offensive and defensive lines are pretty big and strong,” Herabidian said. “We have some decent size up front. A lot of them are seniors.”
Hoover seniors Luis Batres and Jaiden Pease will be the anchors. Meanwhile, junior Armen Tovmasyan is a unique case.
“It’s his first year playing football. He came out of the Ukraine last fall,” Herabidian said. “He’s just a strong kid, but he’s got a lot of football to learn, but he moves bodies around really well.”
Anderson Thombs will be a force on the defensive line. “He’s sound technically and has put a lot of work in the weight room,” the coach said.
Roberto Zegarra will be holding it down at nose tackle; “He doesn’t get moved very easily.”
Also in the mix is Gabe Daneteras, who “is one of most athletic kids. … [We] will look for him to make big plays on both sides of the ball,” Herabidian said.
Continuing a trend, all of this season’s Tornados’ home games, with the exception of Crescenta Valley, will be played on campus.
“We’re going to continue to do that as much as possible,” Herabidian said.
First published in the August 19 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.