By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
In a matter of two weeks, the Burbank High football team has gone from the pursuit of a league title to now survival mode. After Friday night’s 24-17 loss to Muir at Memorial Field, the Bulldogs face the reality that they must win their last three games of the season to having a chance to play in the postseason. A coin flip is a likely possibility even IF Burbank runs the table.
The loss to the Mustangs dropped Burbank to fifth place in the Pacific League with a 2-2 mark. They trail Muir (4-0) and Burroughs, Crescenta Valley and Arcadia who are each 3-1. Prognosticators have Burbank and Burroughs winning their next two contests.
Thus, the “Big Game” could very well determine who gets in the playoffs and who doesn’t. There are only three automatic bids for the Pacific League and Muir has one locked up. Burbank, Burroughs, CV and Arcadia will fight for the other two bids while the remaining two teams will be on the outside looking in.
“You lose one and you are done,” Burbank coach Hector Valencia said. “We obviously know what we have to do. We have to win our next three games and win a coin flip depending what happens with Muir and CV and the rest of the league. We have to win.”
After suffering a 48-47 setback last week in overtime to CV, Burbank knew what was at stake against the defending league champions. A year ago, Burbank lost the league title to the Mustangs 24-17.
Déjà vu again in 2013. Same score, same result.
Burbank (5-2) opened the scoring with a 42-yard field goal by Herry Avetisyan just three minutes into the contest.
Muir (6-1) scored the game’s first touchdown on a 13-yard pass with 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The extra point was blocked.
Both teams buckled down defensively in the second quarter with neither team conceding any yardage.
Finally, BHS broke through the stalemate when quarterback Ryan Meredith (seven of 23 for 129 yards) connected with Oharjee Brown on a 34-yard pass down to the Muir one-yard line. Two plays later, Meredith crossed the goal line on a QB sneak to give Burbank a 10-6 lead with 1:26 remaining in the first half.
The Mustangs closed out the half with a 30-yard field goal as time expired narrowing the deficit to 10-9.
Burbank punted on its first possession of the second half and Muir took advantage driving 63 yards and scoring from seven yards out on third-and-six. The missed two-point conversion made it 15-10 in favor of Muir.
Muir tacked on another touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 69-yard pass that proved to be the decisive blow. A safety two possessions later gave the Mustangs a commanding 24-10 lead with 7:55 left in the game.
Meanwhile the potent Bulldogs’ offense was stifled for most of the game. James Williams, who rushed for a school-record 278 yards last week, was held scoreless while rushing for 67 yards on 17 carries including a paltry 17 yards in the second half. He also caught three passes for 42 yards.
After allowing 18 consecutive Muir points, Burbank finally found the end zone when Meredith hooked up with Tony Toledo for a 41-yard touchdown pass at the 1:17 mark. After recovering the onside kick, the Mustangs ran out the clock to preserve the win in what has become a fun and entertaining rivalry between the two schools.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Valencia said. “We have established a lot of mutual respect between the two programs.
“We really wanted this. I thought we had a good week preparing. Unfortunately we didn’t pull it off.”
A week after giving up more than 500 yards of offense and 48 points, the Burbank defense played well corralling the quicker Mustangs for much of the game. However, this time around the Bulldogs’ offense never got on track as it amassed only 212 total yards not counting negative yardage via quarterback sacks.
“The defense took it to heart last week. They took responsibility and it showed this week,” Valencia said. “They prepared and worked hard. They did an awesome job of stopping the run and kept us in the entire game.
“Now we have to see if our offense can bounce back for the next three games after going against a great defensive team in Muir.”
Burbank next plays Glendale on Thursday night at Memorial Field.