By Rick Assad
It took a while, but the Burroughs High football team seems to be in a nice groove after edging Harvard-Westlake 21-20 in a nonleague encounter at Memorial Field on Friday night.
This may have been the best overall game the Bears played to date under Jesse Craven, the second-year coach.
“Hopefully we can use this game as a positive step as we move into the [Pacific] League,” he said.
Senior Jon English, who is normally a running back, but against the Wolverines toiled at quarterback, feels this way after throwing a pair of scoring touchdowns in the opening half.
“I think this was the best we’ve ever done overall offensively and defensively, because every week we’re getting more and more disciplined, and that’s really what it comes down to in high school football,” said English, who passed for 157 yards on seven of 14 attempts.
Extremely versatile sums up what English can do on the field.
“I’ve got many different talents I can place myself on the field, but I’m just going to go wherever the coaches need me to be,” he said. “It was a great win. We needed this for our mentality.”
English marched the Bears down the field after senior lineman Jose Oliveros recovered a fumble by sophomore running back Aaron Milburn at Burroughs 40-yard line.
Three plays later, English spotted sophomore wide receiver Aiden Berryman with a 60-yard strike over the middle for his only reception as 9:48 remained in the opening quarter as the Bears took a 7-0 lead.
“Jon did a great job of running the offense. Also, he was able to create plays and extend drives when we really needed them,” Craven said of English, who gained 45 yards on the ground on 14 carries.
A 27-yard field goal attempt by Burroughs sophomore kicker Brodie Kemp was blocked with 3:20 left before the intermission.
The Bears’ defense then forced a punt on Harvard-Westlake’s next possession as the home team set up shop at the Wolverine 43.
After three consecutive runs, including two carries from English that netted 11 yards, the ball was placed at the Harvard-Westlake 29-yard line.
On the fourth play of the drive, English unloaded a 29-yard toss to senior wide receiver Elijah Aldana-Pere (40 yards on two receptions) as one minute was left in the second quarter.
After Kemp’s second of three extra points, the Bears secured a 14-7 advantage.
Throughout the four games this season, the Bears (2-2) have relied on their stout and hard-hitting defense.
With the game on the line and in the waning moments, the defense stood tall after forcing a 43-yard field goal with just under seven seconds left on the clock.
Harvard-Westlake (3-3) drove to the Burroughs’ 15-yard line and could have kicked a much shorter field goal, but three penalties moved the football back to the Burroughs 26-yard line.
“We gave up some scores we shouldn’t have, but they came up when it mattered in the end,” Craven said of the defensive unit.
The Wolverines, who began the season with three consecutive wins, played much better in the second half.
Harvard-Westlake tallied back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter as they came within 14-13 and 3:58 left when senior running back Alvin Holmes (team-best 93 yards on 21 carries) slashed his way in from a yard out, capping a five-play, 84-yard march.
The Wolverines used three onside kicks and two were successful including one that led to a 48-yard, one-play drive that saw Holmes sprint in with 3:35 remaining in the frame that gave the visitors a 20-14 cushion.
A one-yard scoring run by Holmes with 40 seconds left in the first quarter ended a five-play, 53-yard march and evened the game at 7-7.
Harvard-Westlake’s six-point lead didn’t last too long as the Bears responded with a four-play, 59-yard trek as senior running back Nathan Howland-Chinna (game-high 113 yards on 16 rushes) scored on a 47-yard burst up the middle to make it 21-20 with 1:39 remaining in the third period.
“Yes, the offense played with better rhythm. Again, hopefully we can continue to grow and improve as we move forward,” Craven noted.
The Bears commence the Pacific League portion of the schedule when they face host Arcadia at 7 p.m. on Friday.