By Dick Dornan
myBurbank Sports Editor
The perfect pass. The perfect catch. The perfect touchdown. Just maybe the pass was guided and delivered from heaven above. From cousin to cousin.
On a day that was filled with emotions ranging from pain, shock, hurt and emptiness ended in a temporary feeling of elation on the football field.
Hours after learning about the death of his cousin, April Townsend, and two others (Jake Gnasso, Ian Bulbenko), Burroughs quarterback Andy Amela showed the heart of a champion and guided the Indians to a 45-17 victory over Rosemead on Friday night at Memorial Field.
Amela completed 13 of 19 passes for 258 yards including an 86-yard touchdown pass to Erick Hernandez that shook the stadium from the ground up. The picture-perfect throw nestled into the hands of a streaking Hernandez up the Rosemead sideline. It gave JBHS an insurmountable 38-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“He threw it out there and I just kept running,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get there but I kept running and I got to it. I turned on the jets and that was it.”
The 86-yard touchdown was the sixth longest pass in Burroughs history and the longest since 2008. The record is 93 yards set on October 19, 1996, when J.K. Scott found Glenn Adriatico in a 32-28 victory against Saugus.
Amela completed his final four passes of the game for 157 yards. He ended the contest with one TD pass and no interceptions. Hernandez led the Indians with five catches for 127 yards.
“Andy Amela, for a guy who has never played quarterback in high school football, stepped in and made adjustments on some throws that were amazing,” Burroughs coach Keith Knoop said. “You can’t teach veteran guys sometimes that stuff. We tried to spread the ball around and take advantage of what they were giving us.”
The win was the first of the season for Burroughs (1-1) who played with heavy hearts having to deal with the death of Gnasso, a wide receiver for the Indians in 2012, as well as Amela’s cousin and Bulbenko.
“It was really big for us. Everyone was distracted by it,” Hernandez said. “We had a couple of guys who were affected by it. We came out kind of slow but we picked it up. We did it for them.”
The victory was bittersweet for Burroughs Principal John Paramo whose younger brother, Mark, is the head coach for Rosemead.
“My brother and I are both very competitive and it’s kind of a sentimental game because we just lost our dad about a year ago. My dad was a huge football fan and a big supporter of Rosemead High School,” Paramo said. “So this is kind of an emotional one for my brother and I. But it’s kind of nice to win.”
Paramo smiled proudly from the sidelines as Burroughs broke away from a 10-10 halftime deadlock and dominated the second half. Considering the difficult circumstances, the win was soothing for many.
“It’s really hard to describe because you are coming out here and trying to be supportive of the football players and all the football families that are out here to support the team,” Paramo said. “But the kids have been amazing. We have really good kids. This is indicative of the students here at John Burroughs. I’m very proud of them.”
The Indians began the scoring when Hunter Guerin scored on a 1-yard run with 7:50 left in the first quarter. Aidan Anding’s 29-yard punt return gave JB good field position which it capitalized upon.
Trailing 10-7, Andres Aguilar nailed a 30-yd field goal as time expired in the first half to tie it for Burroughs.
The Indians set the tone for a strong second half by taking the opening kickoff and driving 70 yards in nine plays. An 18-yard pass from Amela to Hernandez followed by an 18-yard run from Chance Bell set up Bell’s 1-yard plunge for a 17-10 lead.
Guerin returned the ensuing Rosemead punt 55 yards to the house for a 24-10 advantage.
After the Panthers (0-3) cut the deficit to seven, the Indians roared right back. Hernandez returned the kickoff 25 yards to give JBHS excellent field position on its own 43 yard line.
A 36-yard pass from Amela to Nick Mercado and runs of nine and one (TD) by Bell pushed the Indians’ lead back to 14 at 31-17 at the 1:19 mark of the third period.
That set the stage for Amela’s heroics finding Hernandez on the 86-yard TD pass with 8:09 left in the game.
Burroughs capped off the win when Ash Hawkins scored from six yards out for the final margin of victory.
“It took a little bit of time because they changed some things on defense,” Knoop said. “Once we figured out what they were doing, then the run game opened up. They tried to press our receivers and we took advantage of that.”
Bell ran for 57 yards on 12 carries while Guerin rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries. Guerin played a strong game at safety with multiple pass breakups. Anding caught five passes for 64 yards.
The Indians are now on the road for five consecutive weeks starting at Santa Fe on Sept. 19.