By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
One visit to a Burbank football practice can be deafening. Hip-hop, rap and rock-n-roll music blare across the field as the coaches instruct and the players compete. It’s a unique way of practicing and preparing for the next game ahead. When most programs block out the “noise” to focus on the task at hand, Burbank welcomes the bounce of the beat.
Make no mistake about it. It’s proven to be successful keeping the players loose and focusing in a different manner. Entering their fifth season under Coach Hector Valencia, the Bulldogs have put together an impressive resume taking a once dormant program to relevance again.
Excitement and anticipation fills the earsplitting air for the 2013 season that begins Friday night at Memorial Field against Bell Gardens at 7 p.m.
“We have very high expectations due to that we have a lot of returners. That’s the exciting part,” Valencia said. “We also have a lot of young guys filling in from a pretty solid JV team. A lot of our gaps are being filled in with some pretty good kids who are hungry to compete.”
Scoring points, a lot of points, are the norm for Burbank: (31.4 points per game in 2012; 26.0 ppg in 2011; 34.4 in 2010; 34.2 in 2009). This year’s squad should break 30 ppg with frequency.
Returning to the lightning quick fast-paced offense will be junior quarterback Ryan Meredith and running back James Williams. Meredith has matured immensely during the offseason after throwing for 635 yards and completing 51% of his passes last year. His physical growth and improved arm strength during the summer should pay dividends this season.
“Ryan looked really good all summer. His attitude, competitiveness and work ethic has been far and above anything we expected,” Valencia said.
Williams begins his junior campaign ready to break-out as a recognized name throughout the San Fernando Valley. He has already made his imprint upon the city of Burbank and the Pacific League as he racked up 1,443 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10.9 yards per carry in 2012.
Pick any one of the following adjectives to describe Williams and write your own narrative come this fall: athletic, agile, swift, quick, dynamic, powerful, sleek, smooth and adept.
A year ago Burbank finished 7-4 overall and 6-1 in league, losing only to Muir and falling short of its second league championship in four years (Burbank won in 2009). The combination of Meredith and Williams should prove lethal this upcoming season.
Joining Williams at running back will be Joseph Pendleton (507 yards), Martin Caro and newcomer Tony Toledo who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 20-plus touchdowns on the junior varsity squad.
Sebby Santoro brings excellent hands and tremendous route running at wide receiver. He will be complimented at the wide out position by Burroughs-transfer Oharjee Brown. Santoro and Brown will provide Meredith the multiple weapons to throw to.
“There is definitely a lot of potential to be a very explosive offense,” Valencia said.
Burbank brings back six starters on defense with the defensive backs and linebackers forming the backbone.
Santoro, a senior, leads the defense with his ability to play a variety of positions. He is versatile to start at free safety or cornerback and strong enough to be a linebacker.
“We just need to figure out where he is the best suited and get him there,” Valencia said.
Senior Michael Wong will stabilize the defensive line and work alongside Kyle Alvarez who had a strong season for the JV’s last year.
“Michael is an animal out there. Very intense,” said Valencia.
All-League selection Andy Park returns at linebacker.
Looking back at the 2012 season, Burbank overachieved despite a lack of veterans who had any game experience. They still managed to take second in league and advance to the CIF Southeast Division playoffs.
With 15 players possessing valuable experience from a year ago, Burbank should be right in the mix for a league title with Muir, Crescenta Valley and Burroughs.
“We are going for the league title. We aren’t trying to just get into the playoffs. We want to compete and win a league title,” Valencia said. “And we want to go for the whole thing. There is no doubt that we can do it. It’s the passion behind how we run our system. This team is very competitive. Now it’s just a matter of how bad do they want it?”
Pacific League play will kick-off at Arcadia on September 27. The 65th “Big Game” against Burroughs will be on November 8 at Memorial Field. The Bulldogs took care of business last season against the Indians, 37-14.