By Rick Assad
Special to BurbankNBeyond
Even before Burbank High and Norwalk stepped onto the turf at Memorial Field for Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Southeast Division opening-round playoff game, the goal for each was to establish the run. The Lancers did, but the Bulldogs were throttled as visiting Norwalk earned a 49-14 victory.
Burbank sophomore running back James Williams came in having rushed for 1,414 yards and 17 touchdowns but was limited to 28 yards on eight rushes. Senior Teddy Arlington had 27 yards on eight carries, and junior Joseph Pendleton added 10 yards on eight rushes.
Williams finished his first year on varsity just 63 yards shy from breaking the single season rushing record at BHS. Arlington ended his stellar high school career with 917 yards on the season.
It was tough sledding for the Bulldogs, who only had 48 yards on the ground and 201 total net yards against Norwalk.
“We knew they were going to be a tough opponent,” said Burbank Coach Hector Valencia of Norwalk, which paced the Southeast Division in rushing with an average of nearly 373 yards per contest and nearly 40 points per game. “We knew that we had to go point-for-point with them because they were going to score. We had to match them if we were going to win.”
On this wind-swept and chilly evening, the Lancers were even better, totaling 412 yards on the ground, and only 10 yards through the air as they scored on their first five possessions and led 35-6 at the half.
Burbank (7-4) scored just before halftime when quarterback Ryan Meredith (seven of 18 for 134 yards) found Arlington (77 yards on three receptions) on an 18-yard strike with 1:16 left.
The Bulldog’s other score came on Arlington’s 4-yard run that closed out a 10-play, 64-yard march with 8:13 remaining in the third quarter that narrowed the gap to 35-14. Meredith then hit Francis Nicks with the two-point conversion.
“After we got down, we had to throw the ball, but he [Ryan Meredith] was getting hit,” said Valencia. “We didn’t want that, so we had to run the ball.”
On the game’s first series, Norwalk (9-2) used seven plays and 53 yards to make it 6-0 after junior running back sensation Rashaad Penny, who entered the postseason having rushed for 1,567 yards and 24 touchdowns, scored on a five-yard dash and 8:37 left in the first quarter.
Burbank then took over at its 17-yard line, but Pendleton was hit in the backfield for a 13-yard loss, and in the process also fumbled.
One play later, Matthew Ortega (40 yards on eight carries) ran up the middle for four yards, and added the two-point conversion as the Lancers pulled ahead 14-0.
“We wanted to establish the run, but their turnovers early were huge,” said Norwalk Coach Jesse Ceniceros. “Burbank is very well coached and fundamentally sound. They come at you, but we’ve got a very good team.”
Burbank punted, and after Jason Gomez’s kick traveled a minus two yards, the Lancers led 20-0 after Bryan Sullivan (103 yards on nine carries) scampered 33 yards with 6:02 showing in the first quarter.
A second fumble by Arlington led to a seven-yard scoring run by Penny (159 yards on 22 rushes) with 2:11 left. Sullivan’s two-point conversion made it 28-0 and the second quarter had yet to begin.
It swelled to 35-0 as Norwalk used a nine-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off when Malcolm McAllister (85 yards on 13 rushes) scurried in from 10 yards out and 9:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Norwalk also tacked on a two-yard sneak by quarterback Jacquise Hooper with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, and Ortega’s one-yard run with 4:25 showing in the final quarter that closed out a 15-play, 70-yard excursion.
Burbank bounced back from a disappointing 2011 campaign (4-6, no playoffs) with a strong second place showing in the Pacific League and a successful season overall.
Meredith, Williams and Pendleton return to give the Bulldogs a potent offense for 2013.