The stage was set at Memorial Field in Burbank on Oct. 27.
A Pacific League title would be decided at the end of the night as the Burroughs High and Burbank High football teams took part in the latest edition of the annual Big Game.
For the Bears, it was an opportunity not only to avenge last season’s close loss to their rivals, but it was also a chance for them to win their first outright league crown since 2015.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, hoped to spoil their rival’s endeavors.
Burroughs jumped on Burbank early, and often, to win 48-13 and be crowned Pacific League champions.
“It means a lot,” third-year Burroughs coach Jesse Craven said of the Bears’ first league title of his tenure. “These guys bought in and they put in the work, especially the senior class.”
It was an undefeated league run for the Bears, also a first since 2015.
“I’m grateful and I’m happy,” Burroughs quarterback Chris Kulikov said. “All the work and everything that goes unseen has really come to fruition with this team.”
Upon winning league, Burroughs (9-1 overall) had the opportunity to host the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VII playoffs on Nov. 3. The Bears faced Agoura (7-3), a fourth-place finisher in the Canyon League and who qualified for the postseason as an at-large team. More details of the result will be included in next week’s issue of the Burbank Leader.
Burroughs lost to Burbank (3-7, 1-4 in league) last year by a three-point margin. The Bears were the victors the year before with a 10-point win over the Bulldogs.
“We just knew that our guys had to come out from the start,” Craven said. “Last year, we let them stay in it and really take advantage and take the ball away from us. We knew we had to trade turnovers, turn those turnovers into points and try to jump on them early and that’s what these guys did.”
It was neither the outcome nor the season Burbank had wanted, but Bulldogs coach Adam Colman hopes the team grew from a tough season.
“A lot of times, difficult teams and difficult games teach you to keep going,” Colman said. “In life, you’re going to have ups and downs, so if you just smooth sail through football, are you really learning those lessons? And a lot of times you’re not. Learning how to handle adversity, handle disappointment and not let it break you down is stuff that you can really use and hopefully something they’ll take with them.”
Kulikov was 5-for-8 passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns and carried the ball eight times to finish with 76 rushing yards and one touchdown. Bears receiver Ethan Hubbell made two catches for a pair of touchdowns and 144 yards receiving.
Burbank quarterback Daniel Zacariaz ran the ball 10 times for 51 yards rushing. Bulldogs running back Joseph Caballero led the ground game for the Bulldogs, rushing for 60 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Burbank junior Jacob Mendieta tallied eight carries for 47 yards rushing.
It was a disastrous start for Burbank, which muffed the opening kickoff to put Burroughs at the Bulldogs 15. Kulikov handed the ball off to running back Santiago Sanchez for a 15-yard run into the end zone for the game’s first score and a 7-0 Burroughs lead with just 12 seconds gone.
“It really paved the path to our success,” said Hubbell of the kickoff. “We got hyped from that and we built off that.”
Burbank’s offense was stalled across midfield on its opening drive, but on the ensuing punt attempt, the ball grazed a Burroughs receiver, and the Bulldogs were able to recover at the Bears 17. Nothing came of it however, as the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs at 7:11 in the opening frame.
On the very first play of their second offensive possession, Kulikov took just one second to survey the field before connecting with Hubbell, whose 68-yard catch-and-run score put the Bears up 14-0 with 6:59 left in the opening quarter.
Burbank got into a rhythm on the ensuing possession. A combination of quarterback keeps and short passes to Caballero got the Bulldogs deep into Bears territory. A defensive pass interference call set the Bulldogs up for a first-and-goal situation, and two plays later, Caballero punched in a 4-yard carry to cut the Burroughs lead to 14-6 with 19.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Five run plays and one completed pass later, Kulikov linked up with senior Aeneas Pichardo for a 24-yard touchdown and a 21-6 advantage with 9:02 to go in the half.
“We kind of started finding our footing but the defense could never really get going,” Colman said. “They’re a really crisp offense. They execute really well. I don’t think we ever quite got our feet under us on that side of the wall. It’s hard playing catch up against an offense like that.”
Burroughs then capitalized on a Burbank turnover on downs with another big, scoring play. Kulikov again launched a pass to Hubbell, who picked it up near midfield and charged down the open space for a 76-yard touchdown and extended the Burroughs score to 28-6 at 5:28 in the second.
Burbank’s first-half woes continued with 3:06 left in the second quarter when Zacariaz was tripped on a run, coughing the ball into the hands of Burroughs linebacker Maximillian Batres.
The Bears capitalized nearly two minutes later when Kulikov took off on the Burbank 44 for a touchdown to set up a 34-6 lead at the break.
After turning the ball down on their opening drive of the second half, the Bulldogs received a lifeline when Sanchez fumbled the ball on the Bears’ first play of the third quarter.
Burbank senior Sean Garrett converted the turnover into points and capped a six-play drive to cut the Burroughs advantage to 34-13 with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
Not long after, the Bears executed a seven-play scoring drive as senior Jake Scozzola ran in a 5-yard carry for a touchdown at 2:41 in the third. Bears senior Roberto Gutierrez capped the scoring with 4:40 left in the game, trotting in a 2-yard carry to extend the Burroughs lead to 48-13.
First published in the November 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.