Raul Roa Staff Photographer

Jordan Lobianco and the Crescenta Valley High football team have high hopes for 2014. (Raul Roa Staff Photographer / September 1, 2014)

Make no mistake, Crescenta Valley High’s football team is very much looking forward with aspirations for an ultra-successful 2014 campaign.

“We have the same goals every team does: to win CIF, to win league, but we’ll take it one step at a time,” said senior quarterback Brian Gadsby said.

Alas, there’s also no doubt that the Falcons still have lingering thoughts of the season last and a postseason lost.

“It’s motivation,” Gadsby said.

Boasting a No. 8 preseason ranking in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division, a chip on its collective shoulder and an abundance of returning talent, Crescenta Valley is confident it can be as successful as it has been in years, all the while exorcising the demons of an 8-2 2013 season that ended before the playoffs began.

“Our biggest goal that we talk about is we don’t want any doubts on the whole playoff thing,” said Crescenta Valley Coach Paul Schilling, who will begin his fifth season when the Falcons host Verdugo Hills on Thursday at Glendale High.

And the most efficient and surefire manner to ensure a trip to the playoffs is to win the Pacific League, which the Falcons are convinced they can do for the first time since 2004.

“We definitely think we can win league,” Schilling said. “But we know Burbank is good, Muir is good and we haven’t beat Burroughs [since 2008].

“If we are on our game and we don’t get hurt, we think we can beat everyone on our schedule.”

A season ago, Crescenta Valley went 8-2 with a 5-2 mark in the Pacific League, which tied it for second with Burbank and Burroughs. However, the Falcons were on the outside looking in at the playoffs after the CIF Southern Section’s playoff tiebreaker formula didn’t go their way. Thus, as the new season nears, the Falcons’ current flock seems poised not only to prove it can succeed this season, but also make up for last year’s postseason omission.

“It definitely still bugs us,” said senior receiver/defensive back Connor Van Ginkel.

Van Ginkel is one of 12 Falcons with starting experience returning. Senior offensive and defensive lineman Davo Hakobyan, senior receiver/defensive back Jordan Lobianco, senior receiver Chase Walker, senior defensive end Matt Erickson and Gadsby are back after All-Area junior campaigns.

“We had a lot of juniors that really stepped it up and now we’re all seniors,” Walker said.

Gadsby’s return was in question, as the reigning James H. Jenkins News-Press Male Athlete of the Year had earned a baseball scholarship to UCLA and devoted his summer to the diamond. However, Gadsby returned around the conclusion of the summer and is seemingly back to form rather quickly.

“He’s just so natural,” Schilling said of Gadsby, who threw for 2,465 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and is 10-2 as the Falcons’ starting quarterback dating back to a two-game stint his sophomore year. “He just has such a quick release.”

While Gadsby’s return has no doubt added to the Falcons’ assurance, his summer absence might well have paid dividends, both in building the receiving corps’ confidence and further exposing the talents of sophomore Tyler Hill.

“This last summer in passing leagues we did really well and we didn’t even have Brian the entire summer,” Van Ginkel said, “so that says a lot about our receiving corps.”

Walker (43 catches for 677 yards and seven touchdowns last year), who was Gadsby’s No. 1 target in 2013, Van Ginkel (19 catches, 509 yards, six touchdowns), Lobianco (39 catches, 563 yards and six touchdowns) and junior Bostin Lakin (nine catches, 125 yards and two scores) all had starting experience last season and might well be the strength of the team and the Falcons’ trademark spread offense.

“It’s a pretty good crew,” Schilling said.