It’s been two years since the Burroughs High football team qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs, and if Keith Knoop, the longtime coach has anything to say about the matter, this season will break the spell.
Burroughs is coming off a campaign in which it went 6-4, and 4-3 in the Pacific League for fourth place, and getting to the top isn’t going to be easy.
“Winning league is always tough,” Knoop said. “I don’t know what the other teams have because I haven’t seen them. Realistically, on paper, we have a chance to win it.”
Knoop went on: “We were a younger team last year, and we have more experience this season. We feel really good. We feel this can be special.”
On offense, seven of the 11 started a season ago, while on defense, nine of the 11 were starters, which makes Knoop, who is entering his 19th season as the head man, sleep better at night.
“If we stay healthy and we play the way we’re capable of, we have a good chance,” he said. “We need to put them in the right position. We’ve set some team goals, and goals for every game. We last won league in 2011, but we’ve missed the playoffs the last two years.”
Burroughs plays a scrimmage at Warren tonight before opening the regular season at Calabasas on Sept. 4.
The Indians’ first home game will be Sept. 18 versus Santa Fe, and the league schedule begins at Memorial Field versus Muir on Sept. 25.
The key player on offense is the quarterback, and it’s a two-man battle for the job between senior Steven Hubbell, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 160 pounds, and senior Andy Amela (6-0 and 200).
“We feel secure at the quarterback spot,” said Knoop, who indicated that Hubbell has the edge based on athletic ability.
The Indians should be balanced offensively, and when the quarterback throws he’ll have a potent group of wide receivers and they include seniors Erick Hernandez (5-11 and 160 pounds), Nick Mercado (5-10 and 160), Torin Harris (5-11 and 165), Cade Borland (5-8 and 165), who will punt and be the place kicker, and transfer Robert Awunganyi (6-1 and 170). Senior Connor Garden (6-2 and 245) will line up at tight end.
One game-breaker is junior running back/defensive back Sammy Duran (5-9 and 150), who is the fastest player on the team, and runs a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash.
Hernandez could be a marked man based on what he accomplished a season ago. “We’re expecting big things from Erick,” Knoop said. “He was our leading wide receiver.”
The Indians’ top running back is junior Chance Bell (5-9 and 165), who will see the majority of touches and will also catch the ball out of the backfield.
“He’s looking to be a premier running back,” said Knoop of Bell, who gained 1,180 yards as a sophomore. “He’s an explosive young man and dynamic.”
Burroughs’ offensive line is stout and includes junior Thomas Howe (5-10 and 245) at center, senior Bryce Martinez (5-10 and 240) at right guard, senior Justin Gonzalez (5-10 and 240) at left guard, junior Jesse Chamberlain (6-4 and 240) at left tackle, and senior Anthony Garcia (6-2 and 225) at right tackle.
Given that the offensive line opens up the holes for the running backs and allows the quarterback time to find the receiver, they are critical to any success. “The O-line is looking pretty good, but we’re not tremendously deep,” Knoop said.
Manning the defensive line will be Garcia at left end, Gonzalez at tackle, Martinez at nose tackle, and senior Cole Gurley (6-1 and 180) at right end.
The four linebackers include Garden and senior Hunter Guerin (5-9 and 160) on the outside, and senior Branden Garcia (5-8 and 215) and senior Josue Chicas-Ortiz (5-10 and 210) on the outside. Depending on the package, Guerin will also play strong safety.
Awunganyi will toil at free safety, and senior Jarret Wrobel (6-0 and 165) and senior Nick Tipton (5-9 and 155) will be the cornerbacks.