By Rick Assad
Two plays that didn’t go in the direction of the Burroughs High football team sidetracked a favorable outcome for the home team and swung the balance to Village Christian on Thursday night.
The first was a series just before the first half when the Bears had the ball at the Crusaders’ one-yard line and failed to score.
The second was a fourth quarter interception with 5:48 left thrown by senior quarterback Chris Kulikov that gave Village Christian an 11-point advantage and these helped propel the Crusaders to a 32-27 victory in a nonleague game at Memorial Field.
“Yeah, that was a tough loss. All the credit to Village [Christian],” Burroughs coach Jesse Craven said. “We have a lot of things to clean up and work on before we move into the [Pacific] League.”
Holding a slim 21-20 cushion, the Bears, who came into the contest with a four-game winning streak, marched from their own 44-yard line and after a 19-yard pass from Kulikov to senior wide receiver/defensive back Jake Scozzola and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Crusaders, the ball was on the Village Christian 22.
Kulikov then hit Scozzola with a 13-yard strike and found Scozzola on two short passes that totaled five yards.
“There was pressure from Village Christian’s line. There was nothing we could really do but fight. We just have to fight. Fight as a unit. We have to play as one whole brotherhood and we didn’t really do that,” said Kulikov, who completed 21 of 33 attempts for 230 yards. “We just have to learn from our mistakes and fight. Play with more heart. Play with more passion. They’re [Village Christian] some of the best defensive lines we’ve played all year, but we have to come back better and stronger.”
Kulikov was pressured during the night and was sacked seven times for minus-48 yards.
“That pick I threw was a huge thing. Bad read. Safety came down and helped. He was playing back all night long and he jumped the route,” he said. “Forced the pass that shouldn’t have been thrown. Pick six. I messed up. I can tell you I don’t make the same mistake twice, so I’m going to look over all the mistakes and we’re going to look at it as a team and fight.”
While it’s never good to lose, there can be good byproducts from a setback.
“Yeah, that was a pretty tough loss, but it was good for us,” explained Scozzola, who caught 12 passes for 95 yards. “Having a dogfight against a good team was something we really needed, and it will keep us competitive for the rest of the season.”
On the final play of that half-ending march, senior running back/linebacker Santago Sanchez was stopped for no gain and the half concluded.
Midway through the fourth period and the Bears (4-1) behind 26-21, Kulikov threw a pick six as senior wide receiver/defensive back Braddock Kendrick raced 35 yards into the end zone for a score and a 32-21 lead.
The contest started off well for Burroughs as senior wide receiver/defensive back Ethan Hubbell intercepted sophomore quarterback Chase Everett and returned the ball 52 yards for a score with 4:36 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 edge.
Burroughs took a 14-6 lead when Kulikov found senior tight end/linebacker Alex Valenzuela (42 yards on three receptions) with a 35-yard pass and 11:21 remaining in the second period, capping a five-play, 47-yard drive.
When Kulikov drove from Burroughs’ 23 and 14 plays later drilled Valenzuela with a six-yard toss and 2:14 left in the second quarter, the Bears were ahead 21-12.
The Crusaders (4-1) found the end zone when Everett nailed senior wide receiver Ryan Dellutri, who played with Scozzola as freshman at Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks, with a 24-yard strike and 1:20 on the clock in the opening frame that cut the lead to 7-6, ending a 63-yard, eight-play march.
“The offense did great in the first half but after that we got outplayed in the second half,” said Scozzola, who finished with 12 receptions for 95 yards. “We made some mistakes that we have to clean up but Village [Christian] played a great game tonight.”
Scozzola thinks the team will have a strong second half of the season.
“Of course, we’ll bounce back after this. We have a bye this week and are going to take that time to recover along with working on cleaning up our mistakes so we can come back better against Pasadena,” he noted.
Junior running back/outside linebacker Dylan Worrell’s three-yard jaunt for the Crusaders and 8:15 on the clock sliced the margin to 14-12 and concluded a 10-play, 55-yard drive.
Village Christian added its third touchdown of the first half with 39.7 seconds left when Everett rifled a 25-yard aerial to junior wide receiver Lucas Lehman and when the pair hooked on a two-point conversion pass, the Crusaders marched in front 21-20 after capping a 57-yard, five-play excursion.
Village Christian found the end zone once again when Dellutri returned a punt 43 yards and 1:30 left in the third period and held a 26-21 advantage.
After taking a heavy hit late in the game while running with the ball, Kulikov was replaced by junior tight end/defensive lineman Rocco Melillo (three for three and 30 yards) who collaborated with Hubbell (93 yards on six catches) on a 15-yard scoring play for the game’s final points.
Burroughs is off next week and will take the field versus Pasadena at home to begin Pacific League action on September 29 with a 7 p.m. start.