With the first preleague game just a week away, Golden Valley football hosted Crescenta Valley in their first and only scrimmage on Friday night at Canyon High School.
The Falcons finished the 2017 season with a record of 8-3 and lost in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs to Mira Costa, a team the Grizzlies beat in the semifinals 20-18 to reach the title game.
With first possession, Crescenta Valley gained ground by using an array of runs up the middle and designed quarterback draws. The Falcons caught the Grizzlies on their heels as they were able to reach the end zone on the first of three drives.
“It went exactly like the way I thought it would,” said Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley. “We came out and our youth showed a little bit in the first two drives, but once we settled down we were able to move the ball on offense and we started to play way better defense.
“It’s one of those things that we are out here to evaluate everybody and it’s a controlled practice in my opinion and we aren’t out here to win we are out here to win a scrimmage, we are out here to compete and to see who will stand out. ”
Settling his players down, Kelley sent out returning starter Zack Chevalier at quarterback for the first of three 10-play drives.
Finding wide receiver Johnathan Kaelin for a 9-yard gain, Chevalier completed his first pass of the game.
On the next play, Chevalier found a streaking Kaelin down the right sideline for a 33-yard pass that Kaelin juggled, but was able to control before getting knocked out of bounds.
“I felt good out there,” Chevalier said. “As a team we were kind of set in and we made a couple mistakes that we have to go over in film, but I was excited to get out here. I can’t wait for the season to start, you know it’s so fun playing with these guys.”
Facing double coverage for most of the game, Kaelin said that he has to work getting off the ball quicker.
“I have to work on getting off the double team because they were keying in on me,” Kaelin said. “I feel that we need to work on switches to confuse the defense by getting two players on me and freeing up someone.”
Distributing the ball evenly to Kaelin, Breydon Simmons, Carlos Meza and Antonio Abrego, Chevalier is still looking for that go-to receiver, but has an idea of who that might be.
“We have a very balanced offense, but Johnny (Kaelin) is one our main guys. He’s kind of the number one target where me and him have good chemistry, but all across the order from Breydon to Carlos to Abrego all those guys can catch.”
Playing running back for the first time, Tyler Williams joined in on the action carrying the ball a couple times, finding the gaps and holes catching the Falcons’ defense off guard and nearly getting loose for the big play.
The Golden Valley defense was anchored by Derrese Morganfield in the middle as head of the linebacker core, confusing the Falcons’ offensive line by getting into the backfield and flushing their quarterback out of the pocket.
“I think we obviously have room for improvement but you know we did pretty good for our first game, first scrimmage,” Morganfield II said. “There’s a lot of new kids coming up playing varsity, there’s a lot of veterans that, like myself, were kind of shaky a first, but after getting our feet wet we started playing really good.”
Forcing multiple bad snaps and fumbles, the Grizzlies defense was able to find their stride and stop the Falcons late in the game.
“I thought our defensive line stepped it up,” Kelley said. “You know, we’ve got some big kids in there that can cause some havoc but again we are going to evaluate the film and move some guys around so it’s going to be a great year and it’s going to be a fun year. A lot of talent.
“What we have done the last two years, these kids know it and they want to defend it and go out and play every week like it’s a championship so we can try to get back there.”