They know what they need to do and they are up for the challenge.
Members of the Burroughs High football team have endured two straight seasons of struggles, leading to back-to-back losing campaigns. In addition, the Indians have not qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs since 2015.
But under the direction of a new coach and with a renewed sense of team, the Indians are hoping to turn things around, be competitive in the Pacific League and work their way back to the playoffs.
“I had some success as an individual last season, but we didn’t have the kind of success that we wanted as a team and that’s really what is more important,” Burroughs senior quarterback Nathan Piper said. “I could have all the success in the world, but if we’re not winning that really doesn’t matter.
“We know we had a losing record last year and we didn’t make the playoffs. We know we are going to be the underdogs this season, but hopefully we can go from a team that is an underdog to a team that does it all. We have all been working really hard so we can be successful.”
In 2017 under Mike Reily, who stepped down in January, Burroughs went 4-5 and finished 3-4 in league for fifth place. Over the past two seasons, the Indians are 8-11 overall and 6-8 in league.
In the wake of its recent struggles, Burroughs has been moved down from Division VIII to X in the Southern Section.
Rand Holdren enters his first season with the Indians with reserved optimism. Holdren was an assistant coach at Harvard-Westlake as well as at Alemany and played in college at Southern Methodist University.
“Things are progressing nicely,” Holdren said. “We have spent a lot of time here trying to get these guys together and really become a team, because that’s where it all starts. What is nice is that they are finally getting on board with that.
“What I have been seeing in them is that they’re starting to see what they need to do to be successful. …They are learning to be a team and that makes it more enjoyable to them.”
Holdren said he has received a tremendous amount of help from former Burroughs head coach Keith Knoop, who serves in an associate head coach capacity. Knoop was coach for the Indians for 19 years, winning five league championships before stepping down in 2015.
“Having Keith Knoop out there with me has been a real gem,” Holdren said. “He just knows so much about football and has a lot of knowledge and he knows about the teams that we are going to play.”
Helping lead the Indians in their effort to rebound is Piper. Last season, the quarterback completed 142 of 234 passes for 1,668 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In a league game against Hoover, Piper set a new school record for yards in a game with 430.
“Every position is up for grabs,” Holdren said. “I told the kids coming in that nothing is set and they have to work to be able to earn a spot. I also said if you played a position last year and you wanted to try a new position go for it. Once games start, we will get a clearer picture of where guys are going to be.
“I told [Piper] that he is the point guard of this team and he is going to have to run things. He has really been willing to learn and he made a big turn this summer. He is very smart. And I told him I want to get to the point where he can call the offense. In two-minute drills, I want him to get comfortable calling what we need to run.”
Another key returner for the Indians is senior linebacker Thomas Wilson, a rare all-league hold-over after making the second team last season. He finished with 77 tackles — 10 1/2 for a loss — and nine hurries.
“Playoffs is definitely a goal for us, but we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves,” senior linebacker Daniel Foxx said. “One thing I see this year that might have been different from the last is that we’re really growing as a team. We’re not being individuals, but instead we’re playing for each other.
“Coach has really focused us on bonding and I think that is working because we’ve become close. I think things are coming together better than it has in the past.”
Playing on offense for the Indians will be junior running back/slot David Garza, sophomore running back Luke Rogers and senior running back/slot Nathan Turner. Another player who could play a variety of skill positions on offense is junior Nicholas Garcia.
“In our offense, you have to know it all because you could play anywhere,” Holdren said.
Heading the receiving corps is a trio of juniors, Ellington Simmons, Alex Perez and James Forrester.
Manning the offensive and defensive lines are senior Ferdy Hernandez and junior Caden Cardenaz.
In the defensive secondary will be Garza, Garcia and senior Jacob McClure, while leading the linebacking group will be Wilson, Rogers, Perez, Alex Deptula, Foxx, junior Henry Diaz and senior Kyle Heyman, a transfer from Texas.
In his first foray in the Pacific League, Holdren expects some good competition.
“I expect it to be tough in league and this league has been traditionally tough,” said Holdren, whose team scrimmaged Claremont before its season opener. “There is a lot of pride in this league and until I got here I didn’t even realize there were still seven-team leagues.
“But we know that even though we’re in Division X, we might not be able to get into the playoffs unless we get one of those spots from league. But I really think we are going to be able to steal some wins this season. I just know these kids are going to fight their hearts out.”
The Indians open their season Thursday at 7 p.m. with a nonleague game against West Ranch at Valencia High. Burroughs begins Pacific League competition Sept. 14 at home against Arcadia.