Going in opposite directions upon the conclusion of the regular season, Burbank High and Bellarmine-Jefferson's football teams are both headed to the same destination now.
The Bulldogs, coming off a lopsided win in "The Big Game" against archrival Burroughs, will host Norwalk on Friday night in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, as released on Sunday, while Bell-Jeff, fresh off a loss to St. Monica's, enters the Northeast Division playoffs as an at-large squad faced with the daunting task of upsetting No. 2 seed Rio Hondo Prep.
"We expected Norwalk when we did the math, so we weren't too surprised," said Burbank Coach Hector Valencia, whose squad enters the playoffs with a 7-3 record after a 6-1 second-place showing in the Pacific League. "Definitely pleased [we have a home game]. We love playing at Memorial Field. ... It gives us an advantage."
The game might very well be a quick one, as both teams employ run-heavy strategies.
Led by the tailback tandem of sophomore James Williams and senior Teddy Arlington, Burbank has seen the two combine for more than 2,000 yards rushing.
Valencia said Norwalk (8-2), which finished third i the Suburban League, runs a double-wing T offense behind a huge offensive line.
"They're definitely a running team," Valencia said. "We know how they're gonna come after us. It's just a matter of if we're gonna be ready."
Averaging more than 370 yards rushing per game, the Lancers boast three running backs with more than 600 yards rushing and at least eight touchdowns, led by Rashaad Penny, who's rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Having won two straight and six of their last seven, the Bulldogs are on the heels of a 37-14 win over rival Burroughs and Valencia likes where his team is headed.
"I think it's good momentum that's gonna carry over," said Valencia, whose Bulldogs, should they win, would face either Downey or Rowland in the quarterfinals.
Bell-Jeff, on the other hand, is coming off a 34-14 Santa Fe League loss to St. Monica. But a 4-6 record and a 2-2 showing in league has led the Guards to the playoffs and first-year coach David Machuca is plenty pleased with that.
"First of all, our goal was to get in the playoffs. Just to get in is a huge accomplishment for the program," he said. "We're gonna have our hands full, but we're gonna give it our best shot."
Rio Hondo is the defending division champion and has won seven games in a row, including a 4-0 run to a Prep League title.
"They're disciplined and they play hard," said Machuca of a program that boasts 13 division championships.
The Kares are led by running back Nate Tayco, who averages nearly eight yards a carry, and have scored more than 40 points in four straight games, including a 49-0 win over Pasadena Poly on Friday. It's the same Poly team that Bell-Jeff beat, 50-49. The Guards are led by standout running back Josh Martinez, who's rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Should the Guards pull of the upset, they would play either Saddleback Valley Christian or Desert.
Both games are set for 7:30 p.m. starts.