CHINO HILLS — Burbank High’s football team walked off the field Friday night with a win in its season opener on the road against Ayala.
But the Bulldogs hope the win doesn’t come with a devastating cost.
Burbank was able to overcome first-half jitters in the zero week game and had to come back to earn a 26-14 victory that was the first with Richard Broussard at the helm.
However, Burbank suffered a big blow when senior starting quarterback Ryan Meredith was injured and knocked out of the game.
“Ryan had a good game and you always hate to see something like that happen,” Broussard said.
With its running game, spearheaded by All-CIF running back and Washington State commit James Williams, stalled, it was Meredith who ignited the offense attack. The senior signal-caller completed 14 of 25 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
But with Burbank in control of the game late in the fourth quarter and trying to run out the clock, Meredith rolled out and was tackled hard by an Ayala defender with 1:12 remaining. The senior had to be helped off the field and was in obvious pain. The Burbank medical staff said Meredith suffered an injury to his left ankle.
Mark Meredith, Ryan’s father and an assistant Burbank coach, said Ryan would be taken for medical attention and possible X-rays following the game. He left the field on crutches.
In a rare game that saw Burbank not tally a rushing touchdown, Ayala did a good job focusing on Williams, who was held to 19 carries for 59 yards.
“After the game, James came up to me and said ‘Coach, is it going to be like this every game?,’” Broussard said. “And I told him that will be the case pretty much. I told him he’s going to have to earn his money this season baby.
“They are not going to give him the yardage this season; he’s going to have to earn it. He is going to have to man up and play hard every down. But I think when he looks at films he’ll see whet he needs to do.”
With a questionable defense coming into the season after losing nine of 11 starters, the Burbank defense did a solid job against Ayala. At the forefront of that defense was senior defensive back Nicolas Cantong, who had two interceptions.
“I feel we needed to step up early, but I feel I really wasn’t playing well in that first half,” said Cantong, who also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Meredith. “But at halftime we got together and talked about what we needed to do and I think we all played better in that second half.”
With neither team able to score in the opening quarter, Meredith hooked up with Cantong with 7:17 remaining in the second quarter to put Burbank in front, 6-0.
But Ayala came back and took a 7-6 lead on a touchdown with 1:16 left and that’s how the first half ended.
Meredith came out firing in the second half, connecting with Dorian Householder on a four-yard touchdown pass at the 7:32 mark to put Burbank back in front, 12-7. The Bulldogs attempted two-point conversions on each of their first two touchdowns, but came up short both times.
Burbank added to its advantage and made it 19-7 with 8:36 left in the third quarter on a 14-yard interception return for a touchdown by Cantong.
However, Ayala didn’t go away easily. After James Carter took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown, the lead was trimmed to five, 19-14.
Burbank did respond. With 10:11 remaining in the game, Tony Toledo caught a 26-yard scoring pass from Meredith to give the visitors some breathing room, 26-14.
“That was a good team over there,” Broussard said of Ayala. “I think we just came out a little too hyped and we were making too many mistakes in that first half. But the resiliency showed with our guys and they were able to fight through it and come out with the win.”