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Turning on the AC: Burroughs holds on to hope during rocky season

Turning on the AC: Burroughs holds on to hope during rocky season
Burroughs High School football head coach Rand Holdren believes better times are ahead for the Indians despite a tough first year. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

Apparently, even victories haven’t been all too kind to the Burroughs High football team and its first-year coach Rand Holdren.

The Indians were looking to snap a two-game losing streak and alleviate the burden of what had been a 1-6 season and a 1-3 mark in the Pacific League on Thursday evening.

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A victory over struggling Hoover High at Moyse Field would have given Burroughs something to be proud, of or at least changed the subject.

Yet, a brawl on the Hoover High campus the previous Wednesday led the Tornadoes to forfeit that weekend’s contest and Thursday’s game against the Indians.

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So, in a matter of minutes, Burroughs improved to 2-6 and 2-3 and, yet, ultimately felt at a loss.

“With respect, that’s not the type of win we’re looking for,” Holdren said Tuesday. “You want to give the team a chance to go out and compete and just play. It’s disappointing, but what can you do?”

Through eight games this season, Burroughs hasn’t enjoyed the start it hoped for under Holdren.

The former Alemany and Harvard-Westlake High assistant coach has seen all of Burroughs’ defeats come by at least a 21-point margin.

All that would seem to indicate a year marked by frustration and doubt.

Yet, hope is in big supply at Burroughs.

“The experience so far has been great,” Holdren said. “Everybody has been helpful with the new guy and the staff. We don’t have a good record, but we’re improving and we’re believing.”

An argument could be made that since the Burroughs joined the Pacific League in 2006 along with city rival Burbank, no program has enjoyed more league success.

The Indians won four Pacific League titles from 2006 to 2015 under coach former coach Keith Knoop, which tied them with Muir for the most league crowns, while the squad reached the postseason in eight of 10 years.

Knoop’s swansong in 2015 was a doozy, as the Indians finished 10-2 and 7-0 for a league championship and advancement to the second round of the playoffs.

In the three years since that season, Burroughs’ teams have combined for 10 wins, counting the Hoover forfeit.

Perhaps a less-secure coach would have distanced himself from the Knoop era and built his own staff, his own regime.

That’s not the case at Memorial Field as Holdren has embraced the icon along with long-time coaching assist Jose Calzadilla, an All-Foothill League offensive tackle on the 1987 Indians squad that reached the Northwestern Division championship game.

“Coach Keith Knoop has been on staff and he’s been helping with the line, special teams, defense and offense and he’s just been great,” Holdren said. “I’d be stupid to not include a guy who has over 100 wins and not take anything he says with value. You add coach Calzadilla, and there’s a lot of knowledge.”

Burroughs is more than likely on its way to a third straight losing season and third year without a postseason appearance, which marks the first time the latter has happened this century.

While at some places, Holdren would have been on the hot seat, but instead the Southern Methodist University product is supported.

“Pressure-wise, there’s no pressure to win,” he said. “But, it doesn’t matter who we play because we want to bring our A-game and I think we’re improving. We’re getting better. That’s what matters this season, getting better.”

Though the city’s football power pendulum is clearly pointing toward Burbank, Holdren believes better times are ahead and knows what needs to happen.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “It does become a little sales-like trying to pitch the program because I don’t think it needs to be pitched. A couple of wins will turn this around. We believe we’ll get there.”

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