First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
In Burroughs High School’s last football game before the start of league play, the Bears hosted Harvard-Westlake of Studio City in what became a nail-biter, with twists and turns and a heavy dose of drama.
When the final whistle blew, the Bears had survived the chaos and earned a 21-20 win over the visiting Wolverines at Memorial Stadium Friday night in nonleague play.
“It feels amazing. It feels unreal. It feels like a movie,” Bear Nate Howland-Chhina said of the victory.
Burroughs (2-2 record) held a 14-7 advantage at halftime, but Harvard-Westlake (3-3) was mounting a comeback late in the third quarter. With 3:58 left in the period, Wolverine Alvin Holmes scored on a one-yard touchdown run. The visitors were a PAT away from the tie, but were confused trying to set up for the kick. The coaches decided to take the delay of game penalty, pushing back the kick by five yards. The Wolverine kicker then attempted the conversion kick, but it came up short by about five yards. This sequence of events would loom large at the finish.
On the ensuing kickoff, Harvard-Westlake successfully recovered an onside kick while trailing 14-13. On the next snap, Holmes ran for a 48-yard touchdown. That PAT was good and the Wolverines had scored two touchdowns in 23 seconds to surge ahead, but only by six.
The Wolverines attempted another onside, but this time Bear Ethan Hubbell made the recovery. Soon after, Howland-Chhina burst through the middle of the line and took off for a 48-yard touchdown. Brodie Kemp then booted the PAT through the uprights and Burroughs retook the lead at 21-20 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
“They called a dive and I just did what the coaches tell me to do,” Howland-Chhina said. “I know I have my job. The linemen have their job and if everyone on offense does their job, we score touchdowns.”
The score remained 21-20 when Harvard-Westlake got the ball 68 yards from paydirt with 6:23 left and their backup quarterback, Connor Bunnak, in after the starter was injured. Burroughs nearly forced a three-and-out, but a Bears’ defender tipped the pass on third down and 11 to go, and it ended up in the hands of Mark Cho for a 12-yard gain.
The Wolverines later completed a 26-yard pass on fourth down to get to the 15-yard line with 2:05 left. The visitors were called for a holding penalty, then offsides. After an incompletion, the Wolverines were called for sideline interference, pushing them back to the 43-yard line with 28 seconds to go. On the next play, Burroughs was flagged for roughing the passer, putting the ball on the 28-yard line with 16 seconds left. A two-yard pass followed to set up a 43-yard field goal attempt on second down with 11 seconds to go for the lead. However, the kick never had a chance, falling short and wide with six seconds to go.
Quarterback Jonathan English, who was making his first start at the position this season, then took a knee and Burroughs secured the harrowing victory.
“It was great for our guys to come out and compete for each other,” Burroughs coach Jesse Craven said.
English, a senior, completed seven of 14 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 48 yards on 14 carries.
Howland-Chhina finished with a team-high 117 yards rushing on 15 carries and one catch for 12 yards. Elijah Aldana-Pere had two grabs for 40 yards and two carries for seven yards. Ryan Hernandez had three catches for 45 yards.
“We switched up a lot of the offense and finally got it flowing,” English said.
On the second play of the game, Harvard-Westlake fumbled and Bear Jose Oliveros made the recovery. The hosts turned the miscue into points three plays later when English connected with Aidan Berryman over the middle for a 60-yard touchdown.
Two possessions later, Harvard-Westlake tied the contest with a one-yard rushing touchdown with 40 seconds left in the first.
Burroughs regained the lead with one minute left in the second quarter when English threw a short pass out wide to Aldana-Pere, who took it the rest of the way for a 29-yard score. The PAT kick set the halftime score at 14-7 with Burroughs outgaining the Wolverines 214 yards to 67 yards in the first two quarters.