By Rick Assad
Not to show off, but more as a confidence builder, Chris Kulikov had something to prove this past football season.
After spending two unproductive seasons at Cathedral High in Los Angeles, Kulikov transferred to Burroughs and wanted to show what he was capable of accomplishing.
At quarterback, the junior shined brightly and hopes to continue this pattern when the football season rolls around in the fall.
“At Cathedral, I was unable to reach my full potential, as I was not getting the support I needed to do so,” said Kulikov, who completed 129 passes on 246 attempts for 2,007 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2022. “I knew, however, that at Burroughs there were better opportunities and more room for growth.”
In 11 games, the strong-armed field general accounted for 30 touchdowns and had 614 rushing yards on 102 carries with nine scores.
Kulikov was successful in part because he was fortunate to play with quality players.
“This year the team had a good amount of core players that stepped up when needed and did what had to be done,” he said of his teammates.
The Bears went 7-4 last season and carved out a 3-2 record in the Pacific League for second place.
While there were more wins than losses, a player can also learn much from setbacks including the 30-27 loss to longtime rival Burbank.
“I get past a defeat by reviewing the mistakes made in the game, taking care of those mistakes so they don’t get repeated and understanding that there was never a lack of effort or willingness,” Kulikov said. “In order to win, I work my butt off. I put everything I have into the game and give it my all and just have a will to win.”
Oddly, Kulikov’s most outstanding performance was a season-ending 50-47 loss on the road in the CIF Southern Section Division IX playoffs.
“My best game would have to be our first playoff game against Tahquitz High School,” he said. “I believe I played my best this game as I felt the most pressure to perform and give my all. When I’m needed most, I play my best, and this was the game that my team needed me most.”
In that loss, Kulikov passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns on 20 of 35 and added 192 rushing yards and two scores.
Jesse Craven is Burroughs head coach and is impressed with Kulikov’s talent and skill level and dedication.
“What I love about his game is there really isn’t anything on the field he can’t do,” he said. “He has the arm strength and accuracy to make any throw and is a dynamic playmaker on the run game. He is extremely tough and will do anything in his power to win.”
Tall at 6-foot-3 and strong and lean at 185 pounds, Kulikov’s first option is to throw the ball, but when that fails, he has the ability to run.
But it’s more than that. There’s an intangible that isn’t always obvious, and it’s the ability to perform at a high level.
“I personally feel that my best asset was my pure will to win, which maximized my abilities on the field,” Kulikov said.
Few people have played quarterback, but Kulikov tried to explain what it’s like being under center. For sure it’s pressure-packed and full of expectations.
“Quarterback is not an easy position but I enjoy the challenge,” he said. “I believe enjoying what you do can make it easier and being thankful for the talent, teammates, and coaching that you are surrounded by.”
Kulikov knows the inherent risks in playing the game of football. Does the physical nature of the game change how he plays?
“Not at all. I believe one owes their body to the sport which they are playing,” he said of playing football, which can be and is a dangerous sport.
Though pleased overall with the past season, Kulikov would like to change something this season.
“I want to improve building a better team culture around the team next year,” he said.
Craven is glad to have Kulikov one more season and expects nothing but 100 percent effort from his field leader.
“For as good of a player as he is, he is 100 times as good of a person,” he noted. “He is extremely caring, thoughtful and he lightens up every room he walks into. Every day he overcomes a number of personal issues, but he never complains or uses them as an excuse. Getting to know him and build the relationship that we have built over the last year is one of the highlights of my entire career.”
And with that Kulikov sees bright skies for the Bears.
“My expectations for myself and my team for next season is to win a CIF championship and if possible, win a state championship,” he said.
Though these are certainly lofty goals and extremely difficult to attain, do not discount them, given Kulikov’s desire, talent and work ethic.