First published in the Sept. 22 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada and Crescenta Valley high school varsity football teams met on the gridiron for the first time since 2017 and after a high-scoring second half, the Spartans pulled off a narrow 45-42 nonleague victory last Friday in front of the roaring LCHS home crowd.
La Cañada’s win snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Falcons dating back to 2006, when LCHS posted a 14-8 win. Meanwhile, last Friday’s 45-point scoring outburst was the Spartans’ second-highest total against Crescenta Valley in the history of the series, which began in 1966. LC’s only greater offensive showing against the Falcons was a 57-10 win in Sept. 30, 2005.
“It’s incredible; what a night. Incredible crowd, great atmosphere — it’s just awesome,” LC head coach Dave Avramovich said. “I am so thankful CV’s coach [Hudson] Gossard wanted to play us; it’s such a great event for the community. It feels great to play them. They are so good, so well-coached. Our kids battled tough and the guys made plays in the game. Corey [Cheung] obviously does what he does but we know Macky [Plocher] can sling it, too.”
The Spartans took a 24-7 lead into the locker room, but the two programs began trading touchdowns in the second half starting with Crescenta Valley’s opening drive of the third quarter. Eight of the 12 total drives by both teams in the second half resulted in touchdowns, with La Cañada ultimately winning by a three-point margin.
LCHS respond with a touchdown of their own on a drive that lasted 3:02 in the third quarter. A 26-yard rush by junior quarterback Plocher set up the Spartan offense at CV’s 26. On second down-and-3, CV committed a 5-yard penalty. A 4-yard rush by Corey Cheung, a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Plocher and senior Royce Xiao’s fourth of six PATs gave the Spartans a 31-14 advantage with 2:49 remaining.
Plocher had a fine outing in the pocket, completing 9-of-13 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
CVHS scored on its very next drive in the third quarter and, after recovering an LCHS fumble, the Falcons struck again on the first play of the fourth quarter cutting the deficit to just three points with 11:12 remaining in the game.
The Spartans opened their next drive on their own 20-yard line following a touchback and it took one 80-yard rush by Cheung to put the Spartans up by double digits again. Cheung, who posted game-high marks in rushing yards (169), tackles (17) and sacks (one), scored for the second time after previously returning a kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown during the second quarter.
“It feels so great to beat a crosstown rival we haven’t beat in  years,” Cheung said. “We can’t do anything without good coaches, good teammates and it even comes down to the school — good school, good principal and a good athletic department allowing us to do what we need when we needed to.”
La Cañada added an insurance touchdown on a fourth-quarter drive that lasted less than a minute. On 2nd-and-10 at LC’s 28-yard line, Plocher connected with senior Anthony Venneri for a 72-yard touchdown to make it a 45-35 game with just over nine minutes remaining.
The Falcons threatened by scoring after a nearly six-minute drive but Plocher took a knee after just a couple La Cañada plays to signify the end of the game. Venneri finished with three receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown while adding 12 tackles on defense.
The first quarter’s only scoring play was a 20-yard field goal by Xiao on La Cañada’s opening drive, ultimately a crucial play and the right call by Avramovich, who decided to secure an early lead rather than gamble on 4th-and-goal.
“Every score was crucial; it felt like every play was crucial,” Avramovich said with a chuckle. “I like to be aggressive; I like to go for it. I’m not trying to kick field goals if I can score touchdowns but it felt like it was most important to get points on the board and we did that. We trust Royce a lot and we did a good job getting the snap down and kicking it through.”
Senior Trent Carey caught three passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, while junior Hayden Dancsecs made a pair of catches for 37 yards. Junior Cayden Klein had one reception for 16 yards and a touchdown while posting five tackles on defense.
Sophomore Josh Carruthers collected 11 tackles, senior Mateo Gallegos produced eight tackles, and sophomore Warner Ibsen tallied five tackles and a pair of passes deflected. Senior Andrew Gevorgian, senior Max Russakow, junior Paulos Cucullu and junior Lorenz Bayug each finished with four tackles, senior Nyel Bangash had three tackles, and senior Jake Adkins registered two tackles and a sack for a loss of 6 yards. Junior Kei Hartzberg recorded two tackles, while sophomores Morgan Strauss and Scott Carey each had one tackle.
The Spartans concluded nonleague action with a 3-2 overall record. Following this week’s bye, La Cañada will open Rio Hondo League play by hosting San Marino (2-3 overall) on Friday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m.