By Dick Dornan
myBurbank Sports Editor
If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, then the scoreboard looked pretty darn good Friday night for Burbank High. As for the game, not so much. Before a capacity crowd at Memorial Field, Burbank took advantage of five Burroughs turnovers and pulled out a 16-10 win to capture the city championship and a berth in the CIF Southern Section Playoffs.
The win in the 66th meeting between the crosstown schools catapulted the Bulldogs into the CIF Southeast Division playoffs as the third place entry from the Pacific League. Burbank will learn its first round opponent this Sunday afternoon while Burroughs (4th place) will ponder the “what ifs” after committing an uncharacteristic five giveaways.
Burbank (7-3 overall, 5-2 in league) defeated rival Burroughs (6-4, 4-3) for the third consecutive time in the series. The last time the Bulldogs achieved that feat was 1983, 1984 and 1985. For the record, the Bulldogs have never beaten the Indians in four straight matchups. History will be on the line in 2015.
In a game marred by seven combined turnovers and countless penalties, Burbank found a way to persevere once again and overcome a season where injuries were the norm and vulnerability became a question.
“We had a good spring and summer and we’ve been dealing with all these expectations this season,” Burbank first-year coach Richard Broussard said. “We were expected to make the playoffs. And without our best player (James Williams) and a hurt quarterback, we still accomplished our goal of what we wanted to do. It’s been a crazy year but I have been blessed. This is a great group. I inherited this group and I am a lucky guy.”
Broussard always kept faith in his players even when eight starters were sidelined. The ‘next man’ attitude proved to be worthy as many young players stepped up for the Bulldogs in the absence of others. When the dust had cleared, Burbank had made the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
“It means a lot because everybody thought that just because they didn’t have me we would fold over,” said Williams. “We don’t play like that at all. We knew since Monday we would win this game.”
Burbank quarterback Ryan Meredith completed 16 of 24 passes for 158 yards including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Nick Warren that proved to be the game winner late in the third quarter.
“It’s awesome,” Meredith said. “Our senior class went 4-0 against their senior class. We were expected to lose for some reason. We came out and played well.”
With Williams sidelined for the season due to a knee injury and defensive standout Andy Reyes out with a thumb injury, the opportunity for the Indians to take advantage was there but committing four turnovers in the first half didn’t help the cause.
“The game was 16-10 and we had five turnovers,” Burroughs coach Keith Knoop said. “If we don’t have five turnovers, it’s completely the other way around. Turnovers were the death of us tonight.”
Aki Arlington’s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Burbank a 6-0 lead at the 7:37 mark of the second quarter. The extra point was blocked.
Ryan Boyd’s 29-yard field goal to end the second quarter pushed the Bulldog’s lead to 9-0. Through two quarters, Burbank had outgained Burroughs 161 to 97.
Burroughs went into the locker room and made some adjustments to prevent the relentless pass rush and blitzes by Burbank. Indians’ quarterback Andy Amela was constantly pressured throughout the first half and had a tough time getting the Indians’ offense in rhythm.
His primary receivers Erick Hernandez and Aidan Anding were non-factors in the game (one catch apiece) due to the Bulldogs lock down secondary.
The Indians finally got on the scoreboard when Chance Bell (16 rushes for 78 yards) ran a sweep to the right side for a three-yard touchdown that ignited the Burroughs faithful with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Michael Ospina (66 yards on 11 carries) keyed the drive with a 30-yard blast up the middle to set up Bell’s scamper to pay dirt.
“We have great pride in this team. Everyone came together in the second half,” Ospina said. “Too many turnovers. That’s what it came down to. If we didn’t have those turnovers it would have been a whole different game.”
Leading 9-7, Burbank’s Kyle Alvarez recovered an Indians fumble and one play later Meredith found Warren on a screen pass that resulted in a touchdown with 23 seconds to play in the third period.
Andres Aguilar’s 37-yard field goal for JBHS cut the deficit to 16-10 with 6:44 left in the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, Burbank never relinquished possession and ran out the final six minutes of the game behind the sturdy running of Warren and Tony Toledo and the excellent blocking up front by the BHS offensive line.
Warren, a sophomore, rushed for 59 yards on 15 carries while Toledo ran for 55 on 11 carries. Warren also had four receptions for 61 yards.
After the game, Alvarez praised his teammates for their strong effort and shutting down the Indians passing game to only 41 yards on four catches.
“I’ve got to give it up to my boys,” he said. “It’s 11 as one out there on both sides. That was our motto last year and this year we E.A.T. The playoffs are going to be fun. The sky is the limit.”
Burroughs now leads the all-time series, 41-25. It was 41-22 not too long ago. Just ask Burbank.