It is a sequel that could rival the original in excitement and anticipation.
The Burbank High football team is venturing down a playoff path that is very familiar.
For the second straight season, the Bulldogs have earned a spot in a CIF Southern Section semifinal contest. And for the second consecutive season, Burbank will take on Don Lugo of Covina in the semis.
This time around, Don Lugo will host Burbank in a Southern Section Division VII contest after the Bulldogs beat the Conquistadores, 44-14, in Division VIII play at Burroughs High a season ago.
The Bulldogs earned a spot in this season’s semifinals by upsetting top-seeded South Hills, 42-30, Friday in the quarterfinals at Covina District Field.
“Playing at Covina District Field like we did last year in the second round of the playoffs and playing Don Lugo again in this round, it’s a little bit of deja vu for us,” said Burbank first-year coach Adam Colman, who was an assistant on the 2016 team. “It’s really funny that although our team is very different this year personnel-wise compared to last year, we are going down a very similar path. But we are excited to be here and we have enough guys returning to know what to expect in this game.”
Colman’s squad enters the contest with a nine-game winning streak, having last suffered defeat Sept. 8 in a nonleague loss to Downey — a Division IV semifinalist — 35-7. Since then, Burbank (10-2) has rolled to a Pacific League championship — its first since 2009 — and earned two wins in the playoffs, the first coming Nov. 10 against Tustin, 55-42.
“We’ve kind of felt all along that there is no team that we’re afraid of in our division and I think last week’s win against South Hills kind of proved that,” Colman said. “We knew that every team that we were going to go up against in the playoffs was going to be good. But we knew we could compete with anybody.
“What that win last week did, more than anything, was to reinforce what we already thought about ourselves and it gives us that confidence.”
It was the Bulldogs defense that made the difference in the win against South Hills, holding the Huskies to just 13 points in the second half. That defense, under the direction of coordinator Manual Limas, has been led by a pair of seniors, linebacker Drew Pendleton (team-high 106 tackles) and defensive back Christian Fajardo (103 tackles). Also helping to spark the defense are seniors Anthony Lira (63 tackles, team-high nine sacks), Kaydon Spens (five interceptions), Louis Torres (five interceptions) and junior Duncan Smith (54 tackles, eight sacks).
The Burbank offense has also thrived behind quarterback Matthew Porras. The junior has completed 180 of 279 passes for 2,583 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Porras’ favorite targets have been Pendleton (61 receptions for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns) and Smith (54 catches for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns). The ground game has been paced by senior Darnell Williams (191 carries for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns) and junior Chadz Vang (67 carries for 507 yards and five touchdowns).
Don Lugo (10-2) enters Friday’s matchup after placing second in the Mt. Baldy League behind Colony. The Conquistadores are winners of five straight, including playoff victories against Pomona, 26-0, and No. 4 Yorba Linda, 41-24, in the quarterfinals.
With a potent offense, Don Lugo has been efficient passing as well as running the ball behind senior running back Khoury Bethany (26 touchdowns, more than 1,500 yards rushing) and senior quarterback Rudy Garcia (nearly 235 yards passing and three touchdowns last week).
“They return dang near everybody that they had from last year when we played them,” Colman said. “Especially on offense, they are all back. …They have a little different defensive scheme than they did when we last saw them, but their offense is the same.
“We know they are a very talented team and that running back is a very good player. They also have an offensive lineman (Chris Randazzo) who is going to Oregon and they are very well-coached and we have a lot of respect for what they do.”
A win in the semifinals would put Burbank into its second consecutive CIF championship game and the Bulldogs would play at home at Memorial Field on Dec. 1. They would face No. 2 El Modena (10-2, North Hills League champion) or No. 3 St. Margaret’s (10-2, Academy League champion).
In 2016, the Bulldogs advanced to the program’s first CIF championship game, falling to Yorba Linda, 31-21.
“It’s always a good thing when you’re practicing on Thanksgiving Day, that means you get to play the next day,” Colman said. “We are getting used to playing at this time of the year and we hope to keep it going.”