Burbank and Crescenta Valley football

ARCHIVE PHOTO: The Burbank and Crescenta Valley high football teams are both considered strong contenders for the Pacific League championship in 2013. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / September 25, 2013)

A quick glance at the Pacific League shows diversity up and down, or perhaps better stated, north, south, east and west along the Golden State (5) and Foothill (210) freeways.

As league play opens Thursday evening with Hoover High hosting defending league champion Muir at Moyse Field, there is much to watch.

Muir and league runner-up Burbank enter as perhaps the teams with the best shot of winning a title, while Crescenta Valley and Burroughs are certainly in consideration, Hoover and Glendale are up-and-coming suitors and Pasadena and Arcadia welcome new coaches.

If there is a consensus league favorite, then it’s the Mustangs.

“You always have to look at Muir first when you look at the league teams. They are the league champs, so you have to respect that,” Burbank Coach Hector Valencia said, “but we aren’t going to shy away from them and we welcome the competition.”

After wining five of their first seven contests of 2012, the Bulldogs finished 2-2 in the final portion of the season, with one of those defeats a 24-17 setback at Muir on Oct. 19 in what was the de facto league title game.

Yet, in some regards, this year’s Burbank squad is well ahead of last year’s group, as the Bulldogs may have looked more impressive than other Pacific League team during nonleague play.

Burbank has trounced Bell Gardens, Canoga Park and Inglewood by a combined score of 148-33.

While much focus has been gazed upon junior running back James Williams (29 carries for 230 yards and five touchdowns this season), the Bulldogs have a more polished signal-caller in junior Ryan Meredith (32 for 54 for 528 yards and five touchdowns) a and solid receiver in transfer Oharjee Brown (eight catches for 187 yards) and a defense that has produced eight sacks, 20 tackles for a loss and 10 turnovers this season.

Burbank opens at Arcadia (2-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. with circle-your-calendar games versus Muir (2-1) at Memorial Field on Oct. 18 and at Burroughs on Nov. 8 in the annual “Big Game” rivalry contest.

Burbank is hoping for its first league title since 2009.

While Burbank’s success may have been expected, perhaps nobody quite anticipated the bounce back from Crescenta Valley High, which, like Burbank, also owns a 3-0 mark.

Perhaps that’s why there is cautious optimism over at Falcons camp, even after the team completed an undefeated nonleague run with a 42-14 whipping of Foothill rival La Cañada last Friday.

“I don’t know, I felt better before the game, but we’re 3-0 and going into Pasadena,” Falcons Coach Paul Schilling said. “Hey, everybody’s 0-0 and we’re ready. We’re going to get everybody healthy and we’ll be ready to go.”

The Falcons host a young squad from Pasadena (0-3).

One reason for the Falcons’ turnaround has been a high-flying offense, orchestrated by junior Brian Gadsby, who leads all area quarterbacks with 13 touchdowns versus no interceptions, while having already tossed for 744 yards on 49-of-84 passing

Yet, while Gadsby is certainly at the center of a scoring revival, what makes the Falcons both exciting and dangerous has been the team diversity, as 10 players have at least contributed one touchdown on an offense that has put up 54 points at Verdugo Hills, 56 points at San Marino and 42 points at La Cañada.

If there’s an area of concern, perhaps it’s the flip side of the scoreboard, where the Falcons have averaged allowing 29 points per game.

After Pasadena, Crescenta Valley has a telling two-game trial versus the Burbank schools. The Falcons’ annual rivalry game with Arcadia (2-1) is also set for Nov. 7 at Moyse Field.