By Rick Assad
Entering his third season as the Burroughs High football coach, Jesse Craven knows his squad is young, but also feels his team is ready to compete for the Pacific League title and at the very least be in the upper echelon.
“The goal is to improve. Last year we finished third,” Craven said. “I expect us to compete for a league title and after that you want the automatic qualifier.”
A season ago, the Bears went 4-6 in all games and 2-3 in league and that included a 30-20 triumph over Burbank.
“I think all six teams are going to be really good. Pasadena obviously has special talent on their roster. I think Pasadena, the defending league champ, is the team to beat,” Craven said. “Muir is really talented. Arcadia is well coached. Crescenta Valley has a machine over there. When it comes to Burbank, we have a lot of similar type players. They’re prepared and they’ve had a continuous good run in the league.”
Key players who graduated and were critical in that victory over the Bulldogs include Jon English, who played quarterback and free safety, Elijah Aldana-Pere, a wide receiver and free safety, Nathan Howland-Chhina, who played tight end/running back and outside linebacker, Vincent Harris, who toiled at wide receiver and cornerback, Drake Vickers, who played wide receiver and strong safety, Gerald Garcia, a middle linebacker and tight end and Jose Oliveros, a defensive tackle and offensive tackle.
That’s a load of talent and will have to be replaced but Craven, who saw his team lose 19-14 in a CIF Southern Section Division XI playoff game versus host Torrance in a first-round playoff match, believes, with time, the replacements will do fine.
The quarterback position will be a battle between junior Chris Kulikov and sophomore Rocco Mellilo, who stands 6-1 and weighs 180 pounds.
Three players return after being selected All-League and they are 6-0, 270 senior Robert Huynh (tackle/defensive tackle), senior Noah Crues (guard/middle linebacker) and 6-0, 155 junior Ryan Hernandez (wide receiver/cornerback).
“We’ve got a really young team. We have guys who have played a lot. For example, we have [Ryan] Hernandez, a receiver and defensive back who actually has been a starter since he was a freshman. We have [Noah] Crues at linebacker who’s been a big contributor. Marcus Manahan (senior running back outside linebacker) and Robert Huynh,” Craven said. “We have some guys who have played a lot of football for us but the majority of our guys are going to get their first varsity experience this year.”
Craven went on: “There’s a lot of question marks,” he admitted. “Who’s going to rise up and fill the spots of key seniors that we lost, but that’s to be seen.”
Whoever emerges from the quarterback tilt will have several receivers to throw the football to.
They include seniors Dilan Webster (free safety), 6-2, 150 Ricky Garcia and 5-11, 165 Reznor Reeves (outside linebacker).
Several juniors will be available to catch passes and beside Hernandez, they are 5-11, 165 Jaelin Smith (outside linebacker/middle linebacker), 5-10, 165 Aiden Berryman (cornerback/free safety), Alex Valenzuela (outside linebacker) and Santiago Sanchez (outside linebacker and middle linebacker).
Aside from Manahan, the other running backs will be senior fullback Collis Lurie (wide receiver) and junior Noah Frenkel (cornerback).
Junior Brodie Kemp, who is 5-10, 165, will do the kicking for the Bears and has done a solid job in the past.
Though COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere, there seems to be a semblance of normalcy.
“We’re all looking forward to playing a 10-game schedule. Fingers crossed and nothing crazy happens,” Craven said. “First year in the spring we got five games in and last year we lost our scrimmage in our first game because of COVID-related issues. Getting through a 10-game schedule would be exciting.”
The season begins August 26 at home against Fillmore. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m.
Next for the Bears will be visiting St. Genevieve on September 2 and then it will be on the road at Westchester on September 9.
A week later, Burroughs will host Hueneme and on September 23 the Bears will visit Harvard-Westlake.
On September 30, Burroughs will trek to Moyse Field and face Crescenta Valley in the league opener.
On October 7, Burroughs will tangle with Pasadena on the road and on October 13, the Bears will host Muir.
The next game will be October 21 as Burroughs will host Arcadia.
The regular season finale will be October 28 when the Bears meet longtime rival Burbank.
The rest of the team includes seniors Dillon Barnes (wide receiver/outside linebacker), 6-1, 160 Brian Noguchi (wide receiver/strong safety), Jarrod Dilig (wide receiver/running back), Jair Melendez (guard/defensive tackle), Gabriel Martinez, 5-11, 140 Jett Puglisi (wide receiver/cornerback) and Shawn Feroze (tackle, defensive tackle/guard).
More seniors are Anthony Solis-Torrico (guard/outside linebacker), Aidan Vazquez (tackle/defensive tackle), Cash Mimis (running back/outside linebacker), Gavin Francoeur, Stone Slothour (tackle/defensive tackle), 5-7 Lana Arana (guard/defensive tackle) and James Nguyen (wide receiver/outside linebacker).
Additional juniors on the team are Ethan Hubbell (quarterback/cornerback), 5-4, 140 Roberto Gutierrez (running back/cornerback), Adrian Sanchez (free safety).
More include Jon Egurrola (quarterback/wide receiver/free safety), Anthony Rodriguez (outside linebacker/middle linebacker), 5-8, 120 Andrew Podbielski (wide receiver).
Additional juniors include James Chamchuen (running back/strong safety), Aeneas Pichardo (wide receiver/cornerback), Matthew Ardon (wide receiver/outside linebacker) and 5-10 Brody Beebe (guard/defensive tackle).
More juniors on the team are Dominick Perez (tackle/guard/defensive end), Jayden Mowery (tackle), Vladimir Stefanovic (guard/defensive end), Sonny Arana (guard/tackle), Jamal Khalifeh (tight end/nose tackle), Kruz Johnson (tackle/defensive end), Damien Gomez, (defensive end), and 6-3, 270 Lucas Brown (center/guard/defensive tackle).
The rest of the juniors on the squad include Stefan Constantinescu (guard/tackle/defensive tackle), Jakob Manning (wide receiver/free safety), Jonny Chavez (guard/defensive tackle) Reese Shuton (guard), Vincent Surico (wide receiver/cornerback), Bailey Cervantes, Cody Hauser (tackle/guard/defensive end), Edgar Jacobo (defensive tackle) and James Kayser (tackle/guard/defensive end).
Sophomores on the team are Patrick Lima (wide receiver/cornerback), Max Batres, Peter Lingua (center), Julian Zubia (running back/cornerback), 5-10, 240 Colin Jimenez (defensive tackle), Braden Turner (wide receiver/middle linebacker/outside linebacker) and Andrew Remus (running back/outside linebacker).
The other members on the team include Zack Romberger, Sedrick Jimenez, Peter Flynn, Nicholas Wiles, Oliver Piccioni, Ryan Brennan, Alli Croy, Bernard Castro and 5-10 Isaac Reyes (guard/defensive tackle).