Tag Archives: Burroughs High

Rick’s Sports Corner: Jessie Virtue, Defensive Stalwart Gains Confidence

By Rick Assad

It’s tough to imagine Jessie Virtue struggles with confidence. That’s because the Burroughs High senior defender on the girls’ soccer team is, according to Brady Riggs, the coach, one of the best to ever play at the school and has been recognized as such after being named All-Pacific League first-team the last two seasons.

“I honestly struggled with getting mentally ready for a game for a while,” she said. “I have struggled a lot with confidence, so it has taken a lot of time to overcome that.”

Virtue, a defensive wizard, who has accounted for four goals and eight assists in 49 matches across two and a half varsity seasons, tries to calm her nerves before a game.

Jessie Virtue is a defensive wizard for the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“I used to go into games very nervous and I doubted myself a lot,” she admitted. “But I know now how much easier it is to get through the mental challenges when you take a breath and relax.”

Virtue went on: “Sure I am still nervous, but I change my mindset so it’s a lot more positive going in and that has really turned around my mental state before and during the game,” she said.

Virtue has risen to the challenge and has forged her own trail.

“I am one of the three captains we have on the varsity team this year and I am very excited for the opportunity,” she said. “The other captains are two very lovely ladies, Gabby Morales and Lauryn Bailey. I am over the moon to be leading the team with them.”

Virtue continued: “I know and am sure that all three of us will lead the team differently, seeing that we all bring very different things to the table,” she noted. “But it’s the mixture of different personalities and goals that the three of us have, that will really unite beautifully. I am full of hope and excitement for my final year at Burroughs leading with them.”

Jessie Virtue has emerged as a leader for the Indians. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Riggs has a mountain of praise for Virtue.

“Jessie represents everything I admire about athletes. She is an incredibly hard worker, is tireless on the field and plays with a true warrior spirit,” he said. “She has been a stalwart on defense the last two seasons, leading us to the Pacific League championship in 2019.”

Riggs added: “Her versatility makes her invaluable for our team. She has played as an outside back, center back and most recently as our holding midfielder. She is a lockdown defender,” he said. “Jessie has solidified her place on this program and has earned a spot on my all-time starting 11 at Burroughs High.”

Riggs wasn’t finished. “Jessie has Division I talent and with a good attitude and work ethic. She will make an impact wherever she goes,” he said.

Shown dribbling the ball, Jessie Virtue takes no prisoners when it comes to soccer. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Playing AYSO since age five, Virtue now seems at ease with the game.

“I think I find success in soccer because of many years of practice, dedication and sacrifice for soccer and countless amazing support systems,” she said. “I have been playing soccer so long it is almost second nature for me and I think it helps me enormously.”

Virtue continued her thought: “The reason why I say sacrifice is because throughout the years playing both high school and club I have had to miss out on a lot of social event types of things because I’ve felt soccer is more important in the long run,” she said.

No one has escaped COVID-19 which has brought pain and suffering to the entire world.

“As weird as this may sound, COVID kind of came at a good time for me,” Virtue explained. “Just before COVID hit, I had a lot of stressful things coming up for me. For club, we were about to go to Dallas for a tournament and I would’ve missed a whole week of school before a major calculus test and AP tests were also coming up. And to be very honest, I really disliked soccer at this point. I was very unhappy and unmotivated. I was beyond stressed plus calculus was not my best subject, so the pressure was really on. But COVID did come and I feel like I got a magical free pass on all those things.”

Jessie Virtue has played soccer since she was five years old. It’s always about the team. (Photo courtesy Jessie Virtue)

Virtue added: “My club team at the time, GPS [LA] ended up folding and I didn’t have a team for a while, too,” she said. “So all of a sudden, my super busy junior year kind of became a bit easier. I finally got the opportunity to really focus on school and take some time away from soccer. This big break from soccer really showed me a new part of myself that I was glad to learn about myself. It also showed me the parts of soccer that made me love the game. I had focused on the bad aspects for way too long.”

The Indians are coming off a good season in which they went 13-6-2 and 10-3-1 for third place in league and lost to Wilson 4-1 in the CIF Southern Section Division IV first round, but there were matches when the team struggled.

“This is definitely a big question we battled with last year during the season. At times we would get unmotivated and couldn’t get out of the rut,” Virtue said. “There was one game specifically where I remember this happening. We were playing against Hoover at home and we were not able to score at all. We missed many of our opportunities and it almost felt as if the field was silent. No one was communicating or moving the ball. Halftime came around and I tried and tried to figure out the problem and I really couldn’t find the answer. I even went to Brady and tried to ask him why we couldn’t work together.”

Jessie Virtue is always in motion, whether it’s playing for Burroughs or a travel team. (Photo courtesy Jessie Virtue)

Virtue went on: “I started to tear up a little bit and he and I had a really good talk during that halftime,” she said. “We spoke about the state of our team then and what was going on with us. But still we had no clear answer. The next half I really knew something had to change. I started out hard and worked as hard as I possibly could that game. And sure enough we started to score. I made runs and crosses and sprinted back when I needed to and I gradually saw everyone start to pick it up. We ended up winning [7-1] and I felt really proud of myself. So, in situations like I think that when communicating at halftime doesn’t do the trick, you have to lead by example.”

Virtue has also emerged as a quiet leader. “I feel that in recent years I have become much more vocal on the field and in life all together,” she said. “I am speaking up more for myself and for the team and I am glad that is a new quality I possess. But historically, I feel I’ve always been most proud of my effort in the game. I do not go into a game or come off the field slacking off. I really believe that giving it your all is the most important thing you can do. I have some other assets like the little slide tackle trick I pull out every so often, which I am also a fan of.”

Virtue is fond of a few key matches that the Indians have played. “I definitely have quite a few highlights. A huge one was when we found out that we were league champ my sophomore year,” she said. “We had just won our game against either Pasadena or Glendale, I believe, and we were taking a team photo. We knew we were in the running for league champs, but it all came down to the score of the Crescenta Valley versus Arcadia game that was happening at the same time.”

Virtue added: “All of a sudden, Brady runs up to us saying he had some big news for us,” she said. “He brought us into a little huddle and said, “CV-Arcadia is 0-0. You’re league champs.” We all screamed and celebrated and it was an amazing moment. We were the Burroughs girls’ soccer league champs for the first time in 26 years and it felt great.”

That season the Indians carved out a 16-4-2 mark and a 12-1-1 record for the top spot, defeated Artesia 4-1, but fell to Hemet 4-2 in the second round of the Division IV playoffs.

When this season takes place, Virtue and the Indians are hoping to duplicate that scene and feeling.

Rick’s Sports Corner: Burbank High’s Bob Hart, Coach, Teacher, Integrity

By Rick Assad

Bob Hart is totally and fully grounded, and this applies to his baseball philosophy, personality, standing among fellow coaches and players, both past and present.

“While I am fundamentally competitive, I don’t focus on numbers as much as I do players,” said Hart, the Burbank High baseball coach who begins his 16th season at the helm in 2021. “We try to get the players to focus on the process, knowing that the result will take care of itself. We promote competitiveness, but within the parameters of doing your job one pitch at a time.”

Hart played several sports at Burroughs where he graduated in 1978, and is in his 37th year as a coach.

The Bulldogs haven’t always won the Pacific League banner, but for much of the time under Hart, who has also coached football and basketball at the prep level, they’ve been competitive.

That’s because they are fundamentally sound, stress defense, pitching, situational hitting and running the bases with zeal.

Bob Hart has turned around the Burbank High baseball fortunes. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Longtime baseball coach Craig Sherwood, who is an assistant on Hart’s staff, knows him from both sides of the dugout.

“I have coached with Coach Hart and against him for many years and not only has he grown as a coach, but without a doubt gets the best out of his players and I have always felt they played above their capabilities,” he said. “They play above their heads and they are proud to play for him.”

With Hart’s guidance, Burbank has reached the CIF Southern Section playoffs nine times, including 2013 when the Bulldogs captured their last league title and also made the quarterfinals three seasons ago.

Hart, who attended Los Angeles Valley College and Los Angeles Pierce College, and his coaching staff have been working extremely hard during these unique times.

“Our guys are doing individual workouts as well as Google classroom assignments that we present to them each week,” he said. “In addition, I have some guys that play travel ball in different areas. Other than that, we are going to start when we are told to start by the powers that be. Not looking to be on the forefront of experimenting with players’ or coaches’ health.”

Hart also addressed how COVID-19 has caused so many people to miss out on the little matters that make life fun and exciting.

“As far as the team, it’s affected them, as with most,” he said. “Isolating and missing the things we ultimately take for granted. Connection and time with the things and the people we love.”

Winning is always important and it is for Hart, but whether the Bulldogs emerge with a victory or a loss, he wants his players prepared.

“I internalize everything and play it off. Well at least to some degree that’s probably true,” he said. “But what else is true is that I keep perspective and I don’t look at it as life or death. I see true accomplishment being playing your best baseball with honor. That doesn’t always equate to a win, so it’s the nuanced approach that grants me sanity.”

Longtime Bulldogs baseball mentor Bob Hart is well respected by players and peers. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

After a scary incident a few years ago, Hart knows a little something about life and death.

“I feel great,” he said, looking back at a heart attack he suffered. “I lost 17 pounds during this nightmare.”

Hart then added: “Appreciate your life and honor those before you by being the best you can be each day,” he noted.

A teacher in the mold of UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, whose teams claimed an NCAA record 10 national championships including seven consecutive, Hart also wants his players to give maximum effort, regardless of the score or inning.

“Some of the best coaching takes place when your team is not successful. In my experience, to remain even keel is to instill that same value in your team. Consequently taking a more businesslike approach while having fun with it rather than inducing pressure and negativity,” he said.

Reaching the top-shelf when it comes to coaching isn’t a job for the meek or timid, he offered.

“Being a baseball coach or at least a good one is a challenge, but being an administrator of a high school program is a much bigger challenge” he said.

In a very real sense, it does take a village to be successful, regardless of the chore or task ahead.

Watching the action on the field, Bob Hart is always thinking. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“It takes quite a few people in terms of support to make it work,” he said. “I have been so fortunate to have amazing parents and an administration. And the leadership I’ve had with my booster club has been off the chart.”

Sherwood knows Hart forward and backward.

“In my 40 years as a high school coach, I have worked with some of the best people around,” he said. “Bob stands out not only as a quality coach, but someone who really considers it his mission to do the right thing by the players. He demands personal responsibility and he helps build their character.”

Being on top as a player or coach requires the same attributes.

“It’s very similar to that of a player. The will to win. The commitment. The preparation,” Hart said of coaching. “The teammate. For the love of the game.”

Hart said that he has had assistance with regard to his coaching tenure. “My coaches, starting from junior high all the way through high school, were hugely impactful for me,” he said. “They include Mike Nugent, Lew Stone, Rich Grimes, Mearl Stone, Dave Jackson, Ken Tada, Bob Dunivant and Brian Hurst. Some legendary names. I could never name one. I think I took a piece of all of them. I didn’t know it at the time.”

Sherwood is among many that Hart trusts. “As a head coach, he appreciates all of his assistant coaches and discusses all aspects with us,” he said. “He wants to hear our opinions and is willing to change his if he hears something better.”

Like those coaches who came before him, Hart’s impact has been felt by many and will be for many years.

“The highlight of my career has been watching boys become men,” he said. “To watch the maturity process. Watch them accomplish their goals. To fail and get up and persevere. My biggest accomplishment is the pride I take in watching kids start their journey and become solid citizens who contribute in a positive way to our world.”

Sherwood pointed out what Hart has meant to Burbank baseball. “I think that what he will be remembered for is taking a struggling program that had a new head coach every year and not only bring stability, but respectability to the program,” he said.

Rick’s Sports Corner: Emery Goulet, Burroughs High Hoops Leader, Scorer

By Rick Assad

Emery Goulet was often tasked with providing two important ingredients to the Burroughs High boys’ basketball team over the two seasons in which he was a starter and they were shooting and scoring points.

But it was a third element the recent graduate delivered that was perhaps even more vital and that was providing floor guidance.

“I think my biggest role on the team was my leadership,” said Goulet, a 6-foot shooting guard/small forward who averaged about 15 points with five rebounds this past season and 22 points with five caroms the previous campaign. “I was a captain my junior and senior year and my teammates needed my hard work and drive and encouragement to help them out. I also think that I needed to be a scorer, too, at times, but the leadership was most important, especially this year.”

Goulet, who is attending UC Berkeley and majoring in Urban Studies, was heady and knew when it was time to score, play defense and get the team going in the right direction.

“I try and provide energy and light a fire under my guys and build confidence,” he said. “Confidence is such a huge part of basketball. The confidence and energy helps our runs and being sound on defense.”

A recent graduate, Emery Goulet (No. 11) is about to get a pass. A sharpshooter, the UC Berkeley freshman was a floor leader. (Photo courtesy Emery Goulet)

During the initial meeting with Goulet, Allan Ellis, the Indians’ hoop coach felt that he was going to be an impact player, both on the floor and in the locker room.

“From the moment Emery stepped on the practice court as a freshman, all the coaches fell in love with his competitiveness, effort and ability to be extremely coachable,” Ellis said. “Not to mention his ability to shoot and run the floor. Emery was a delight to coach from the time he stepped on the court to the time he left. One of the best players and an even better kid since I started coaching at Burroughs.”

Though Goulet’s basketball career has concluded, he was drawn to the game because it offered so much.

“I like that it’s a team sport, having your guys with you is an empowering feeling,” he said. “I like that it’s a game of runs and just that you can create your own shot. It’s freeing being able to play the game.”

But it was launching the basketball that really excited Goulet, who was named Most Valuable Player by the team as a junior and selected All-Pacific League, first team and Player of the Month. “I’m a shooter. I love to shoot. That’s part of my love for the game, too,” he noted.

The Indians, including Emery Goulet, getting ready for another basketball game. (Photo courtesy Emery Goulet)

Goulet then added: “I think my ability to shoot and create my own shot were my best assets on the floor,” he said. “Also being able to run the floor was a big part of my game, too.”

Like so many college students, Goulet is taking his first year virtually because of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 has greatly affected me. I wasn’t able to finish out high school at school and have a traditional graduation that other years prior always had,” he said. “It also made me stay home for at least this first semester of college, where I’ll be doing everything online.”

An excellent student who maintained a 4.0 grade-point average throughout all four years, Goulet gave some insight into how he spends his day studying.

“I organized my schedule so where my classes are generally in the morning, so I have the rest of the day to do homework and have time for myself,” he said. “I typically try and get all of my work out of the way to give myself the rest of the day and not worry about assignments. But if I’m slammed one day, I’ll take intermittent breaks about an hour at a time.”

Emery Goulet, who averaged 15 points as a senior and 22 points as a junior, is shown guarding the wing. (Photo courtesy Emery Goulet)

Looking back, Goulet has no regrets about how his three-year varsity hoop tenure progressed, including a CIF Southern Section Division III A opening-round 55-45 setback to St. Bonaventure as a senior.

“I was pleased with how my basketball career went. I had a great support system with my family [father Derrick and mother Amy] and was surrounded by some great coaches and great teammates,” he pointed out. “It was great to be able to do what I loved every day.”

Some games stood especially tall, like those versus longtime city rival Burbank, which Goulet, who was the Student of the Month in his Calculus class, deemed to be unforgettable.

“I think the Burbank game at Burroughs my junior year and the one at Burbank my senior year were two highlights,” he said. “Electric atmosphere, really good games, just a lot of fun to be a part of. I played well in those games, too, and that always helps.”

The Indians, who went 19-10 and 7-7 in Pacific League action this past season, blitzed host Burbank 70-57 on January 10, but were edged at home 46-42 on February 12 by the Bulldogs.

During Goulet’s junior campaign, Burroughs finished 11-16 and 4-10 in league play and didn’t make the postseason.

That year, the Indians took their first encounter with the visiting Bulldogs 66-61 on January 11, but fell 83-49 on January 31 to their rival.

Burroughs failed to make the playoffs in 2017-2018, when Goulet, who was part of the California Scholarship Federation and was given the History Award at graduation, came off the bench as a sophomore as the Indians went 12-14 and 3-11 in league.

Of course there seemed to be added pressure in those rivalry games because they were against Burbank.

“I will remember the crowd and atmosphere of those games the most, there was nothing like it,” he said of those clashes. “I loved those games and those moments. So much fun.”

In the end, every game, not just Burroughs versus Burbank, were important for Goulet.

“I tried to just mentally prepare for a battle, never take any game lightly,” he reasoned. “I would try and do the same stretches and listen to the same songs before my games.”

Goulet said this ritual really helped his confidence level. “I was pretty superstitious when it came to basketball,” he admitted. “And then I’d go in and give 100 percent every time I go in there.”

Doing anything well takes years of dedication along with hours of practice and the result can be supreme confidence.

“I think my work ethic, drive and determination helped me succeed the most,” Goulet said. “I always wanted to be the best on the court and wouldn’t stop till I was. That drive helped me get to the level I was at.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: How COVID-19 Wreaked Havoc On Local Sports Teams

By Rick Assad

Eight months into 2020, it’s safe to say that it has been an ugly and harrowing year.

It began ominously, when, just before Oregon outlasted Wisconsin 28-27 in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day, it was announced that David Stern, the longtime NBA Commissioner, whose 30-year reign helped popularize basketball around the world, had died at 77.

Twenty-five days later, on an overcast Sunday morning, Kobe Bryant, age 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others perished on their way to a youth basketball game in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

The news didn’t get any better when in January, a mysterious virus was infecting and killing thousands of people.

The World Health Organization named this virus, COVID-19 on February 11.

A fall sport, football won’t begin until January. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Nothing like it had been seen since the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people worldwide from February 1918 until April 1920 and killed between 17 to 50 million people.

It was one of the most deadly pandemics the world had ever witnessed.

On March 12, COVID-19 became real in the United States when the NCAA decided to cancel the highly-popular and highly-profitable men’s basketball tournament.

The NBA, NHL and MLS followed suit and suspended their seasons. MLB was holding exhibition games, but sent its players home, weeks before the baseball season was set to begin on March 26.

COVID-19 didn’t spare anything in its way and that includes high school sports. The following week, I was scheduled to cover a Burbank High girls’ volleyball match.

Patrick McMenamin, the Burbank co-athletic director and math teacher, said it would be played, but with no fans in the stands and no media.

High school classes in Burbank and elsewhere became virtual and all sports were put on hold.

I’ve covered high school athletics for three decades, including eight years at this website.

Basketball will be put on hold until March 2021. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

You get to know athletes, coaches and administrators. I started thinking how awful it must be for a senior to not be able to finish out their athletic career on the field or court.

Being a prep athlete isn’t easy, as it takes  skill to juggle sports, academics and a social life.

Doug Nicol, the longtime softball coach at Burroughs, chimed in with his thoughts on what it was like to have the season end.

“It’s been extremely hard. The bonds that you build and share with your players. It is hard to just put that aside,” he said. “It was an abrupt stop. Stopped us in midseason so that made it even harder. We were just starting to come together and build our culture back up. To have it stop so suddenly was really hard.”

Nicol also knew it would be difficult news for the seniors. “I feel for our four seniors because all four were performing at such a high level and giving me 100 percent,” said Nicol, who is in his second tour of duty as coach. “They were so bought in and invested and it was hard to not let them finish. Third baseman Memorie [Munoz], pitcher Sidnie [Dabbadie], center fielder Isabella [Kam] and right fielder Sabrina [Englebrecht] laid the groundwork last year for our foundation and any success we have next year, they will be a part of.”

Baseball was interrupted in March because of COVID-19. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The football season, which usually begins in late August or early September, will begin in January.

Adam Colman, the Burbank football coach, said he expects his team to be ready, but realizes there will be roadblocks.

“It’s obviously been a challenge and very different, but we’ve tried to approach it with optimism and as an opportunity,” he said. “One of our core values is resiliency and what better way to work on that then in this setting. We’re focused on working on the mental side of the game and linking it to handling any adversity life throws at you.”

Colman feels confident that his players will be prepared when the games commence.

“Our team has responded tremendously. They’ve taken initiative and many are working out on their own, staying active and engaged, watching film and asking questions, reviewing the playbook and all that,” he said. “So as much as I miss being out there with our team, and I think everyone misses it, we’re really focused on controlling what we can control. Complaining and being upset about it doesn’t do anything, so we might as well use it as an opportunity to grow and get better.”

Allan Ellis, the Burroughs boys’ basketball coach, is looking and hoping for the best despite what lies ahead.

Softball hopes to begin its season in 2021, like the other sports. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“COVID-19, the pandemic, quarantine, school closures, business closures, it’s taken a toll on me personally, and our team, players as a whole, as it has with a lot of people,” he said. “But myself and my coaches always try to teach our players that, we don’t make excuses and we don’t dwell on problems. We look for solutions. And we also must remind ourselves that there are people dying, suffering and livelihoods being affected at the same time, to keep everything in perspective.”

Ellis is fairly certain his team will bounce back from this adversity.

“I believe we’ve done a good job of keeping our kids connected with our coaches in general, keeping them informed and also trying as best as can be done to conduct workouts with many of our kids, whether that’s with Zoom workouts, emails, with specific personal information,” he said. “So I’m pleased with the overall efforts of my staff and the resiliency of our kids during this time. Nothing takes the place of actual gym time as a team, but we’ve learned to adapt, like most programs are doing across the country.”

Burbank baseball coach Bob Hart saw the Bulldogs’ season end prematurely. “Like everyone, we have been greatly affected. Team sports is about camaraderie and it’s hard to develop when you can’t be around each other,” he said. “Our approach is going to be that patience and resolve and as we tell the players, that will ultimately serve them well in life.”

Hart has faith in his players. “We will be doing individual training in the fall and adjust as we are able to. Predicated on decisions made by the powers that be,” he said.

Sports are going to be different, but at least the coaches and athletes will hopefully have a chance to finish the season on the field or court.

Rick’s Sports Corner: Vicky Oganyan, Burroughs High’s Girls Hoops Coach Is Busy

By Rick Assad

To say that Vicky Oganyan is extremely busy doesn’t entirely capture just how much the Burroughs High girls’ basketball coach is seemingly always on the run.

“It has definitely been a challenge having to teach, play college basketball, take a full-time load of classes at Glendale [Community] College and coach my own high school team,” said Oganyan, who has led the Indians to 15 CIF Southern Section appearances in 16 seasons. “However, naturally, I am a person who loves to work and love challenges.”

Oganyan, who has been coaching at Burroughs since 2004 and has seen her teams reach the quarterfinals five times, the semifinals three times and claim the Pacific League title six times including two with undefeated records, added: “When you are doing stuff you love, it is easier to push yourself and keep the drive going,” she said. “Organizing my time and just diving into the day, taking one task at a time and being in the moment has really helped me juggle everything.”

Vicky Oganyan has led Burroughs High to the CIF Southern Section playoffs in 15 of 16 seasons. (Photo courtesy Vicky Oganyan)

This basketball season is scheduled to begin in late February or early March because of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, but Oganyan is still busy, despite the snag.

“As far as our team, it [COVID-19] has hurt us when it comes to fundraising and kept us from being together and working on improving our individual skills,” she said. “Usually in the summer we play over 50 games, host numerous summer events including summer camps and use the free time away from school to bond as a team. Unfortunately this summer we have not been able to do that. We have tried to do the best we can by holding Zoom workouts to stay in shape, work on some ball handling skills and staying united as a team.”

Oganyan played point guard at Glendale High and was a two-year starter including her senior season, 1996-1997, in which she tossed in 17.7 points with 4.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 steals.

In time, Oganyan earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Science and then a master’s degree in Education Instruction and Curriculum from Cal State University Northridge.

A biology teacher at Burroughs, Oganyan, an assistant coach at GCC from 2016 until 2019 and an assistant under her mentor, Jerry Mike at Glendale High and later Valencia High, said she missed not playing college hoops, and that’s why she enrolled at GCC.

During a time out, Vicky Oganyan makes a point to her team. (Photo courtesy Vicky Oganyan)

“I have always wanted to play college basketball,” she explained. “I didn’t get the opportunity out of high school because my parents wanted me to go straight to a four-year school. For someone with as much passion as I have for the game, there was a constant void knowing that I never got that chance.”

Oganyan continued: “Anytime I would play in pickup games or play in the Armenian Leagues in the summer, that feeling of how much I missed the team competition and being on the court,” she noted. “When I started coaching at Glendale College as an assistant coach, I would jump in some drills and I just realized that I could possibly still do this. I am definitely glad that I decided to go back and play because we all have only one life to live and we should be able to pursue our dreams and go after what we love.”

Toiling for the Vaqueros, Oganyan poured in six points, with 6.6 boards, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

A two-year varsity starter for Glendale High, Vicky Oganyan wanted to play college hoops, but didn’t. She fulfilled that void by toiling for Glendale Community College. (Photo courtesy Vicky Oganyan)

This past season playing hoops remains extremely vivid for Oganyan.

“Playing college basketball has been an amazing experience,” she said. “Just being part of a team that works together and goes through highs and lows together in pursuit of success is one of the most gratifying feelings.”

Oganyan was pleased that her college basketball playing journey was made to be a supportive and comfortable environment.

Head Coach Joel Weiss, Athletic Director Chris Cicuto, Sports Director Alex Leon, Dean of Student Affairs Tzoler Oukayan, her teammates, alumni, counselors, professors, students along with family and friends made Oganyan feel right at home.

The chance to come full circle was also a blessing for Oganyan.

“I don’t think I envisioned this specific path, but I do know from very early on my passion was in the game of basketball,” she said. “I loved everything about the game, from the feel of a basketball in your hand and the sound of the swish to its fast-paced action, opportunity for creativity, the physical play and toughness, the competitiveness and the ability to inspire the crowd.”

Oganyan added: “I think as I started coaching after graduating from high school, I realized that I also loved to teach and being a coach was the next best thing to playing basketball,” she said. “Teaching and coaching and having all the experiences, even the highest of highs and the lowest of lows has helped me grow as a person, as a teacher, as a coach and as a basketball player.”

Vicky Oganyan celebrating with her team, Burroughs High, after another victory. (Photo courtesy Vicky Oganyan)

What specifically does Oganyan enjoy about coaching?

“The best part of being a head coach is the opportunity you get to help young players get better, but also impact their overall lives,” she explained. “The relationships you built with each player as they go through your program, keeping in touch with them as they go through their college years and on, and when they come back to visit years later are priceless and without question the most satisfying.”

It’s not all apple pie and ice cream being a head coach. There are some dark days that everyone has to endure.

“The toughest part is dealing with the low points of the season or when you feel that you could have done more as a coach to have impacted a certain player or you could have done more as a coach to have helped the team be more successful,” she said.

Vicky Oganyan showing that she still has what it takes on the basketball court. (Photo courtesy Vicky Oganyan)

Oganyan’s basic principles have worked pretty well.

“Our culture emphasizes hard work, trust, unity, mental toughness, discipline and loyalty to each other and to our school,” she said. “We just believe in buying into each other and the system and doing our best.”

Getting better is something that Oganyan looks forward to.

“Losses are definitely more important than wins when it comes to growing, whether you are a coach or a player,” she said. “Losses help you focus on your weaknesses and realize what you need to do in order to improve. They keep you from being complacent and help ignite your drive.”

Having coached several hundred games, it’s no wonder that many easily pop into Oganyan’s head.

“I think we have had many memorable wins so far in my time at Burroughs,” she said. “Our first league title in 2011, a quarterfinal win at Valley View as the underdogs in 2016. Two really memorable ones include the win in the quarterfinals at Whittier Christian this year which also qualified us for the state playoffs for the first time in school history. The plays our kids had to make down the stretch to win that game on the road in a loud gym, including role players stepping up and being clutch was awesome to see.”

Oganyan went on: “The other memorable one is the 2015 quarterfinal win at home against Peninsula. That was the first time in Burroughs history we had won a quarterfinal game and qualified for the semifinals and to do it in Division I as well as with a team that set a school record for wins at 30-3,” she said. “We had a sold out crowd with both sides of the gym packed as well as a loud and supportive student section going crazy. When the buzzer went off and the student section rushed the court and celebrated with our players at center court it was awesome to see for our players, our program, but also for the school.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Burroughs High’s Nicholas Garcia, Football, Hoop Dynamo

By Rick Assad

There is something special to be said about a person who can play two high school sports at the varsity level.

Beside being good enough to make each squad, there is also the time spent on the practice field or in the gymnasium, then actually playing the games and also being a student in the classroom.

Being able to do all three are time consuming and takes a great deal of hard work along with a fulltime commitment and it’s going to result in sweat, triumphs and some setbacks, but it also means they are determined.

Nicholas Garcia did just that for Burroughs High, as the recent graduate toiled at quarterback for the football team in the fall for two seasons and was the point guard on the basketball squad in the winter for a couple of campaigns.

Nicholas Garcia unloading a pass for the Indians. The senior threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. (Photo courtesy Nicholas Garcia)

Each position that Garcia played entailed being the field or floor leader which can also be mentally draining.

Football is a real contact sport and because it is, can be tough physically on the body.

So let’s not kid ourselves, one has to be extremely tough to play the game.

While basketball isn’t generally considered a contact sport, it can be at times, especially under the boards battling for a rebound or trying to defend underneath the basket.

Garcia, who will attend Glendale Community College where he’ll play football, knew the challenges and welcomed them.

But like everyone else, though, Garcia and football this fall will be on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Both sports, when I’m having fun, I’m playing great, making smart reads,” said Garcia, who passed for 1,980 yards with 30 touchdown tosses, ran for 415 yards with seven scores and added 20 extra points in 2019. “When I’m not playing so well, the communication with my teammates or coaches may be off. So I would fix it.”

As the football field general and primary ball-handler for the basketball squad, Garcia was in charge.

“I feel that I was a leader in both sports. I feel that bond with my teammates on and off the field and can lead them in the right direction and I know they feel the same way,” said Garcia, who was named by the team as the Most Valuable Player. “That’s why they trust me to be their quarterback and point guard.”

Nicholas Garcia could also run effectively with the football. But here he’s pitching the ball to a running back. (Photo courtesy Nicholas Garcia)

Because no team wins all of its games, there are highs and lows, with the latter always requiring a cool head.

In 2019, the Burroughs football team began its season with five consecutive wins before losing four straight.

But in the final regular season match and a large throng at Memorial Field, the Indians, who went 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the Pacific League, pulled out an incredible 29-28 victory.

“The Burbank-Burroughs game this year was absolutely amazing,” Garcia said. “The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. The feeling when we won is indescribable. I will never forget that day.”

In 2018, the Indians football team struggled to a 2-8 record and a 2-5 mark in the league and was one in which Garcia was named Most Valuable Skills Player.

“When both sports went through a rough patch, I immediately hopped in and communicated with my teammates on how we can fix it,” Garcia said. “Communication is the key to winning. I will always believe in that.”

Football and basketball offered a different mindset for Garcia, who plans on transferring to UC Davis or Cal Poly Pomona.

Nicholas Garcia wasn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty. Here he goes over the top of a Burbank defender. (Photo courtesy Nicholas Garcia)

“My mental approach for both sports was not the same,” Garcia said. “I went into football games with a set game plan knowing what to call and the different defenses I would see throughout the game. Basketball, the sport itself, is on the go. You must make different plays and be ready in a faster time.”

Garcia tried to make both sports fun for himself and his teammates.

“What I loved about football was being able to throw the ball to some of my best friends and having a party on the sideline every game,” he said, referring to when the Indians scored points. “Basketball I loved being around my friends and playing fast the whole time.”

The Indians had a successful hoops campaign during his senior season after posting a 19-10 record and 7-7 in league.

For his part, Garcia tossed in an average of about eight points and handed out roughly six assists per contest last season.

Burroughs defeated rival Burbank on the road 70-57, but lost at home 46-42 and was stymied on the road by St. Bonaventure 55-45 in a CIF Southern Section Division III-A opening-round match.

“Nick brought leadership to the basketball team and a certain tenacity to the team with his play,” Burroughs coach Allan Ellis said of Garcia. “Coming from football as a quarterback, our kids naturally followed his lead.”

In the previous season, the Indians went 11-16 in all games and posted a 4-10 mark in league and missed the playoffs.

The Indians did manage to beat the visiting Bulldogs 66-61, but lost to host Burbank, 83-49.

It’s impossible to succeed entirely, but Garcia, who was always willing to speak after a game and break it down during a postgame interview, was able to come away with enough wins and enough highs.

“My best asset for both sports is sharing the ball and my instinct,” he said. “I love setting up my teammates for success. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Garcia admitted that football came just a little bit easier than hoops. “I think playing basketball is harder than playing football,” he noted. “I just feel this way because football comes more natural to me.”

Though his high school athletic career is over, Garcia knows that he gave everything he had to offer and was willing to sacrifice his body.

“For football, I am most proud of leading my guys out every game at the best of my abilities, whether we won or lost,” he said. “I know I put my all in it. For basketball, I was most proud that I could set my guys up and have fun with them whether we won or lost.”

When Garcia reflects on his time at Burroughs, he is pleased and will carry fond memories of his time at the school.

“What I will remember most about playing two sports at Burroughs would be the practices would never stop,” he said. “I would always be playing one or another.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Maddie Riggs, UC Irvine’s Rising Golf Star

By Rick Assad

Every day offers an opportunity to make choices. Most of the time they are fairly mundane like what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner or what to wear that day.

Sometimes they are more complicated and demand deeper thought because they are more important.

In the case of Maddie Riggs, she had to choose whether to play a sport she loved or switch to another upon entering college.

This was a real dilemma because Riggs was a gifted soccer player for four seasons at Burroughs High, leading the Indians in scoring and assists during her junior and senior years and was voted All-Area first-team both seasons.

“Maddie was tenacious as a soccer player,” said her father, Brady Riggs, who is the Burroughs girls’ soccer coach. “She was the consummate leader, always training at full speed, playing through injuries and demanding that level of commitment from her teammates.”

But Riggs also excelled on the Indians’ golf team across four seasons, earning All-Area first-team as a senior. For good measure, Riggs was a member of the softball squad as a freshman.

Maddie Riggs is entering her third season on the UC Irvine women’s golf team. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

So when Riggs, the Mike Torres Award winner which is given to the most outstanding two-sport female athlete at Burroughs, stepped foot onto the campus of the University of California Irvine, she had a weighty choice to make.

Riggs, who redshirted her freshman year, 2017-2018, opted to play golf and has flourished.

“In high school, soccer was my passion,” she said. “I had played soccer at a high level since I was eight years old and dedicated my entire life to the game.”

Riggs went on: “After I got a severe concussion my sophomore year I realized my soccer career would have to end eventually,” she said. “That was when I shifted my focus to college golf. I still love the beautiful game, but my future and my passion now is in golf.”

With the world on pause because of COVID-19, Riggs has been impacted.

“The safety of my family and I has been the priority so my time spent at golf has decreased dramatically,” she noted. “I have been putting on a mat in my room, hitting into a net in my backyard and working out consistently. Once courses opened a few weeks ago, I have practiced at the range, but haven’t played much golf. I’m trying to be as prepared as possible for the Western Amateur in Illinois at the end of July, which I will play in if it is safe to travel.”

Riggs, who tries to emulate the competitive attitude of Danielle Kang, a three-time winner on the LPGA tour including the Women’s PGA Championship in 2017, is entering her third season on the Anteaters’ team.

“I love golf because all the responsibility is on me. What attracts me most is I do not have to rely on teammates for success,” said Riggs, a Public Health Policy major who shot a career-best, 1-under par 71 at the Rebel Beach Tournament and finished a career-best, in which she tied for 10th place in the Gold Rush tourney hosted by Cal State Long Beach. “My success is determined by how much effort I put in, not how hard the rest of my team is working.”

Coincidentally, Maddie’s father, a PGA Top 100 Teacher, has also had a hand in her success at UCI.

A standout on the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team, Maddie Riggs is shown in a match versus Burbank. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

“My role is twofold,” he said. “First as her golf instructor teaching her all the technical aspects of the game and making adjustments to her mechanics as necessary.”

Riggs added: “That has now evolved into becoming her golf coach, supervising her practice sessions, helping her with strategy and learning the subtle nuances of playing on the highest level,” he said.

Riggs, a National Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar, said her father’s experience and guidance has been a blessing.

“Having my dad as a coach is special to me. We have always had a great father-daughter relationship in sports and to have a coach who knows my golf game and me as a person better than anyone is a huge advantage,” she said.

Golf is demanding and exacting, but Riggs has been able to come out ahead. “Golf is a tough sport to master because it is challenging both technically and mentally,” she said. “You can have great technique, but you have to learn how to score which takes experience during competitive rounds.”

Maddie Riggs talking with her father, Brady, the Burroughs’ soccer coach and a Top 100 PGA Teacher. (Photo courtesy Maddie Riggs)

How does Riggs, who took golf seriously at age 16, attack a hole?

“I am a conservative player and I base my decisions on percentages,” she said. “For example, each club has a specific dispersion, so I aim based on how wide my miss is instead of going directly at the flags.”

What’s the one thing that Riggs can lean on at the course?

“The best part of my game is my ability to trust my shot shape and commit to intelligent targets,” she said. “I play a fade, so the ball curves left to right and it is consistent with all my clubs.”

Riggs has been able to play well because she isn’t concerned with the other players.

“Chasing the leader adds pressure, but you cannot control how they are going to play so you have to focus on what you can control which is the next shot,” she said.

Riggs hasn’t played in front too often, but thinks that there’s pressure.

“I haven’t been in the lead very often, but I think it would be easier,” she explained. “As the leader, the tournament is yours to lose or win instead of coming from behind which requires other players to not play as well.”

Golf is a game of patience, which Riggs has. “One trait that makes me excel at golf is the mantra my dad has told me since I was little: “the only thing you can control is your effort and your attitude.” I apply this to all aspects of my life, but it is especially valuable in golf.”

Riggs continued: “I put all my effort into every round of golf regardless of if I am having a good day,” she said. “And it is even more important to have a good attitude on the course when you’re struggling. I never give up on a round and I think that mentality of grinding gives me a competitive edge in golf. I have to give soccer some credit because regardless of the score during a game, you never give up and that’s what I do in golf.”

Though lofty, Riggs in time would like to join the LPGA tour. “I believe that I can play on tour. I have only been playing highly competitive golf for a short amount of time and feel I have not reached my full potential yet,” she said. “I know that I have the work ethic and technical ability to play on tour. I just need more experience in competition.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Lauryn Bailey, Burroughs High’s Soccer Wizard, Survivor

By Rick Assad

Based on talent, overall skill and results, Lauryn Bailey is a veritable magician on the pitch.

In three seasons as a forward for the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team, the soon-to-be senior has scored an eye-popping 67 goals and handed out an incredible 31 assists.

Now that’s truly impressive, but there’s a backstory to her journey. “I’m the third of four girls in my family. My oldest sister [Taylor] has played soccer since she was four [she’s almost 23 ] so I grew up going to her games and wanted to be just like her,” Bailey said. “I love the footwork, the head-on challenges, watching a play we’ve practiced tirelessly unfold on the field, the feeling you get when you “get it in the net,” the sound of the crowd…I love it all.”

Lauryn Bailey (No. 21) is a generational talent according to Brady Riggs, the Burroughs High soccer coach. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Taylor Bailey was part sister and part inspiration, playing soccer four seasons at Burroughs and one at Pierce Junior College.

But there’s more to Bailey’s story.

“I grew up loving the game because of my sister so I naturally gravitated to it at a very young age,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get started until late though, due to an illness. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Wilm’s Tumor at two and a half years old – yep, cancer of the kidney and it had moved to my lung too. No fun! Eight months of daily treatment and years of monitoring my progress before I was officially a survivor and released to play sports. So at the ripe age of eight, I was on my first team!”

Bailey continued: “I studied the game a lot,” she admitted. “I watch the pros play and I try to mimic their moves. I’ll see something in a game on TV and go outside and keep practicing until I get it. Kinda weird, but that’s just me. I’ve had some great coaches that have invested a lot of time in me, too. I’ve learned how to read the field very well and I do a pretty good job at setting myself up for plays, both offensively and defensively because of that.”

Burroughs, along with Arcadia and Crescenta Valley, are the three elite teams in the Pacific League.

Lauryn Bailey is a prolific goal scorer for the Indians. (Photo courtesy Lauryn Bailey)

In Bailey’s freshman season, the Indians went 15-3-3 and 9-1-2 in league as she contributed 18 goals with five assists and was named All-Area first-team.

As a sophomore and one of the captains, Burroughs fashioned a 16-4-2 mark and captured the league banner with a 12-1-1 record, something truly rare for the girls’ program, as Bailey knocked home 25 goals with 15 assists and was rewarded by being tabbed All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.

In her junior campaign, the Indians went 13-6-2 and 10-3-1 in league play with Bailey, again as one of the captains, tallying 24 goals and 11 assists which resulted in her being selected Co-Player of the Year, All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.

Brady Riggs, the Burroughs coach, realizes he has a treasure. “Lo [Lauryn] is a generational talent,” Riggs said. “There’s nothing she can’t do at an incredibly high level. The hardest skill in soccer is to score goals. Lo is a natural goal scorer. She can win games by herself. We won’t see another talent like her in a long time.”

There’s no stopping Lauryn Bailey on the pitch. (Photo courtesy Lauryn Bailey)

Bailey wished the school year wasn’t trimmed because of the worldwide pandemic.

“My junior year in general was good,” she said. “Disappointing that it was cut short due to COVID-19, but grateful my family and friends have all stayed safe and healthy.”

Bailey then added: “As for the season, we fell short. We knew early on we had some big shoes to fill as we had just lost some great players that played key positions,” she said. “We gained some good talent on our team, we just didn’t click and play as a team. That will be the focus as we prepare for next year, senior year!”

Bailey continued: “We’ve trained hard and have too much talent to let a repeat of last season take us out,” she noted. “Pacific League champs, CIF….I plan on going out with a bang and I know my fellow seniors feel the same way.”

Bailey did say COVID-19 has had some affect on the upcoming campaign. “The lack of opportunities to condition and stay in shape have definitely affected our abilities to bond and grow as a team,” she said.

In all three seasons, Bailey and her team have qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The Indians lost in the second round during her first two seasons and in the opening round as a junior.

Bailey said that it’s extra special playing the more talented league teams. “There’s obviously more reward in playing the better teams and taking the “W” home against a stronger opponent, but the goal is get the win, regardless of how well or not so well the other team may be,” she said.

Fearless, Bailey prefers digging in and getting dirty. “Oh, hands down a physical match,” she said of the type of game she likes to play. “I love a good challenge. The harder they play, the harder I want to play. I love the energy and adrenaline rush a good match delivers. I get amped just thinking about it.”

What kind of mind-set does Bailey, who competed in track and field as a freshman and plays basketball for fun as well as the cardio benefit, have entering a match?

“In general, I’m pretty calm and even-tempered and that rarely changes in a game setting,” she said. “Some coaches knock me for the lack of emotion I exude, but that’s just me. Call it my game face, that’s just how I am. I try not to overthink it, stay out of my own head and just play the game I know how to play.”

Bailey is a team-first player, but also realizes that her presence on the pitch is essential if the Indians are to fare well.

“I hope it means the same for the team as it means for me,” she said. “Trust. Integrity. Talent. Leadership and excellence. At the end of the day, we’re a team. None of us are any good without all of us. Everyone has their role, their skill and we expect each other to bring that to each and every game. Sure, we get frustrated, might make a bad play or shoot off the post a time or two. We get annoyed and may be short tempered in the heat of it all, but if we keep our eyes on the prize and strive to work together, encourage, build strength not just around the game, but as women athletes, we’ve all won! I love this game, but I love this team just as much.”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Burroughs High’s Steven Hubbell, Hoopster, Gunslinger

By Rick Assad

There were times when Steven Hubbell made playing basketball and football for Burroughs High seem effortless.

Whether it was hitting an open teammate for an easy hoop or tossing a perfect spiral downfield, Hubbell was always thinking on his feet and usually made the right play.

Of course, this isn’t easy, but Hubbell was able to elevate his skills while toiling at point guard and quarterback at the prep level.

After a brief stay at Cal Lutheran University, which is a Division III program and Glendale Community College, Hubbell, a 2016 graduate, is a senior on the men’s basketball team at the University of Hawaii Hilo where he’s coming off a campaign in which he played in 21 of the 26 games and drilled 42.1 percent of his three-pointers (eight of 19).

Hubbell, standing 6-foot, 1-inch and weighing 170 pounds, said despite loving both sports, he simply couldn’t turn his back on basketball, where he averaged 12 points with four rebounds and four assists at Burroughs.

Steven Hubbell, shown in a game from last season when he was a junior. (Photo courtesy Steven Hubbell)

“I personally like basketball more,” he said. “I just enjoy the fast pace, up and down action. I like football too, but basketball was always a love thing for me.”

The journey that brought Hubbell to Hawaii Hilo is something that has made him stronger and more determined.

“I knew I wanted to pursue basketball at the collegiate level. After my career at John Burroughs, I was first committed to Cal Lutheran University,” he said. “The second week I was there, the head coach decided to retire, so I quickly left for Glendale Community College after the semester and immediately redshirted so I could practice with the team in preparation for the next year. I spent two years under Coach [Vigen] Jilizian and was honored All-Western State Conference my last year at GCC. I was blessed to be recruited by the University of Hawaii Hilo, where I’m happily at right now.”

Hubbell is extremely thankful for having the opportunity to play for the Vaqueros where he averaged 11.6 points with four boards and 3.2 assists and canned 51 three-pointers as a sophomore.

“The junior college system is not easy, but I found it worth it, looking back now,” he said. “A lot of people don’t find success after JUCO, so I’m blessed that it’s not the case for me.”

Steven Hubbell, a two-sport athlete at Burroughs High, has one more season left at the University of Hawaii Hilo. (Photo courtesy Steven Hubbell)

Like the world at large, everything is at a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hubbell, like so many athletes, is trying to stay in shape and is hoping for the best.

“There will obviously be no summer workouts with the team,” he said. “It’s just our responsibility to stay in shape and ready to get back to basketball. As of May 11, my school still plans to have in-person classes for the fall. However, anything could happen and I’m sure they will see what other schools across the world are doing and go from there.”

Hubbell, a Business Management major who played basketball for three seasons and football for two at Burroughs, said that playing two sports are challenging, but he found a way to succeed.

“I’d say a high level of focus is one, but also a strong work ethic is key,” he said. “I also thought that focusing on winning and what I can do to better my team helped in the long run.”

Playing point guard and quarterback are similar in many respects, according to Hubbell, who was named All-Pacific League first-team as a senior, second-team as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore while playing basketball.

“You must be a leader whether that is encouraging your guys or by being in the front during drills,” he said. “We had tremendous talent on both teams and a lot of us are playing at the next level right now. I love to compete, so my attitude was very similar in both sports.”

A 10-game regular season football schedule can be grueling and when the CIF Southern Section games are added, it was even more taxing for Hubbell, who was selected All-CIF and was named the Pacific League Offensive Player of the Year in football as a senior.

“It was tough my senior year because I hurt my back my last football game,” said Hubbell, who threw for 1,853 yards and tossed 27 scoring passes and ran for six touchdowns. “I had to miss the next week of basketball practice which killed me, because I was eager to get out there on the court. It took me a couple of games to get back in condition, but after that, it was smooth.”

Ultimately, the Indians’ postseason run during Hubbell’s senior year in football and basketball was incredible, even if each didn’t reach their final destination.

“We made it to the quarters that year [2015], but we did win the Pacific League,” Hubbell explained. “Looking back, it was a great experience because Burroughs hadn’t won a conference title in many years and haven’t won one since. I take pride in that even though we fell short of our real goal of a CIF championship.”

The Indians went 10-2 and 7-0 in league after routing the Bulldogs 47-21 in the regular-season finale.

Their season concluded when they fell to host St. Francis 21-7, in part because their best running back, Chance Bell, who is playing for San Diego State, was out with an injury.

The final regular-season contest against Burbank was something to behold. “Memorial Field was packed and we secured our Pacific League title,” Hubbell explained of its singular importance.

Several months later at the Indians’ gymnasium, Hubbell capped off his high school athletic career when Burroughs faced highly-ranked Santa Monica in the CIF semifinals, with a full house in attendance.

“We played against a guy named Jonah Mathews, who gave us the work and he just finished his career at USC, which is my favorite school, so it was salt in the wound every time I watch the Trojans,” he said. “But the atmosphere was crazy that night and I’ll never forget that.”

Mathews was almost unstoppable, scoring at will against the Indians, who lost 68-45 and finished 22-8 and 9-5 in league, hitting three-pointers, something that he would do at USC, where he broke the career school record with 247.

Hubbell said playing two demanding sports isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you have the desire, go right ahead.

“I’d say go play three [sports] if you have enough energy,” he said. “It may be mentally draining at times, but if you’re passionate about the sport then you could sacrifice a little. But just know that your summer’s will be all booked up. You will also make friends for life!”

Rick’s Sports Corner: Erick Hernandez, Burroughs Football Player, Turned Coach

Rick Assad

A path can lead in many different directions and sometimes it’s the correct one while other times it just doesn’t work out as well.

Former Burroughs High standout football player, Erick Hernandez, has taken a circuitous route to get to where he is today.

A wide receiver with glue-like hands, a precise pattern runner with deceptive foot speed who caught 80 career passes for over 1,200 yards and accounted for 24 overall touchdowns, Hernandez began his college career in 2016 in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he played on scholarship for Saint Francis University.

After toiling until 2018 for the Red Flash, who are a member of the NCAA Division I AA Football Championship Subdivision, Hernandez transferred to Humboldt State University, where he played one season on scholarship. Coincidentally it was the last year that the school competed in football.

“I learned a ton in my college experience. I grew in every aspect,” said Hernandez, a three-year varsity starter for Burroughs who was named Offensive Most Valuable Player by the team as a senior in 2015 after hauling in 36 receptions for 532 yards with 13 scores and is now the wide receivers coach for the Indians.

Erick Hernandez (pictured in the middle) was a star wide receiver for the Indians and returned as a coach. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

“Some may not see my football career after high school as successful, and I don’t disagree,” he went on. “But everything I went through in college, as a player, has led me to who I am, and who I’m trying to be, as a coach.”

Hernandez, who was named All-Pacific League and All-Area twice and was selected the Hall of Fame All-Star Game West squad MVP, explained further: “I had to fall out of love with the game, to find my true love for it through a process of me falling out of love with the game, but with a new perspective through coaching,” he said. “I can easily say that I have nothing but love for football.”

Right now, with COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, getting ready for the upcoming football season has been put on hold.

“The virus has forced me to cancel all off-season workouts indefinitely,” he said. “I have been stuck at home since the order came out. Staying at home wasn’t so bad at first, but I am really hoping to get back out there with the [Burroughs] team for regularly scheduled summer football.”

Wide receivers coach, Erick Hernandez, leads Burroughs onto the field. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

Hernandez continued: “On the bright side, I have made some great connections with some of the best trainers and coaches in the country, mostly from the collegiate and NFL level,” he noted. “I think this chaotic time has brought a lot of coaches together and created some great opportunities to learn from each other that otherwise would have never existed. Years from now, I think I will look back on this time and see how pivotal it really was for me because in the midst of chaos, I found opportunity.”

Hernandez is grateful to former Burroughs coach Rand Holdren, who stepped down after his second season.

“Working at Burroughs has been great. Things are a lot different than when I was playing there,” he said. “Coach [Holdren] gave me my first opportunity as a coach and I was happy it was Burroughs,” he said. “Burroughs has a special place in my heart and always will. I have a lot of great memories there and this past year I made even more. It has definitely been an experience being the youngest guy in the office and only four years older than most of the kids, but I feel like I fit in.”

An excellent student in high school and college, playing football at the next level proved difficult at times.

“I can’t say I truly enjoyed my college experience,” said Hernandez, who helped lead the Indians to the CIF Southern Section playoffs twice, losing in the first round as a sophomore and the second round as a senior. “I am definitely grateful for it, but I don’t think I took full advantage of it.”

Does Hernandez have any regrets? “I think there were definitely points where I wish I had done things differently, but looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I honestly believe everything I went through as a player has set me up to be a great coach. The successes and failures and everything in between has given me a great perspective as a person and as a coach.”

Hernandez acknowledged the difference between playing high school and college football.

“It’s much harder than high school, especially at that high of a level, so it is easy to get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “There are definitely more reasons, but at the end of the day, I put the blame on myself and take responsibility for my successes and failures alike.”

Though Hernandez was hoping to accomplish more at the college level, it’s not as though he and the team didn’t shine.

“It would have to be winning the [Northeast] conference title and getting a ring my freshman year of college,” Hernandez said of his career highlight. “That was the first time in school history that the football team won a Division I AA conference championship.”

Hernandez said some words of wisdom during his last year playing college football has been the most helpful.

“Some advice that I got from Humboldt State wide receivers coach, Josh Irvin, was “remember why you started” and that sticks out to me till this day,” he said. “I think a lot of us lose sight of why we start something in the first place and that’s why we fail sometimes.”

Hernandez then added: “And sometimes we start things for the wrong reasons, so looking back and remembering why we decided to start something in the first place gives us perspective and can either give us a sign to keep going or move on,” he said.

Though young, Hernandez is well on his way in his chosen field. “My short term goal is that I want to get into coaching as soon as I finish my Business Marketing degree at CSUN,” he said. “Long term, I think I could be happy as a position coach at the college level, but I believe I am capable of much more; so I do plan to reach my full potential and if it leads me to a coordinator or head coaching job, then I would fully embrace that.”