For the second straight year, James Williams proved to be a valuable offensive asset for the Burbank High football team. And for the second straight season, the running back has been rewarded for his contributions.
Williams, a junior, earned his second consecutive All-CIF Southern Section Southeast Division offensive accolade when the list was released Monday.
"When I won it last year, I felt I had something to prove to try and live up to being All-CIF," Williams said. "It has been a goal of mine to try and win All-CIF in all of my years with the team. It is just an honor to be named and to get an award like this.
"But all the yards I do get and all the touchdowns I score aren't for me, they're for the team. That comes first."
Williams was joined on the team by two teammates: senior wide receiver Oharjee Brown and senior defensive back Sabastian Santoro.
"It's really nice to get three players named to the All-CIF team," Burbank Coach Hector Valencia said. "To get three in one season is a big accomplishment for our program."
Williams finished the season with a single-season school-record 22 rushing touchdowns in 164 carries. His 1,469 yards rushing (nine yards a carry) were good enough for second on the all-time list, just 35 yards shy of Ulises Ochoa's 1,504-yard record set in 2009. Williams also had 22 catches for 482 yards (21.9 yards a catch) and five touchdowns and had 2,307 all-purpose yards and scored 176 points (third all-time).
In addition to his All-CIF honor, Williams was also named the Pacific League Offensive Player of the Year following his successful campaign.
"With the kind of season he had, we kind of expected that James would make it for sure," said Valencia of Williams, who dealt with his share of limited time due to injuries and blowout victories. "Although we didn't use him as much as we could have, he made the most of his opportunities and the guy just gave it his all on every play."
Brown, a first-team all-league selection, made an instant impact after transferring from Burroughs. Brown caught 55 passes for 976 yards (17.7 yards a catch) and 17 touchdowns.
"He came in and just fit right in our offense," Valencia said. "He made his presence known, especially in the playoffs. We could always count on him to make a big play for us and he always seemed to come through."
Brown said earning the award is something he didn't strive for.
"I did want to be an all-league player, but getting All-CIF is something that I really didn't set out to do," he said. "When James was injured, I just tried to step up my game and take over some of the offensive load."
Santoro, who was also an all-league first-team pick, was a big part of a Burbank defense that allowed an average of just 15.6 points a game. Santoro tallied 80 tackles, an interception and two sacks.
"He really didn't have great stats as far as interceptions go, because teams just wouldn't throw his way," Valencia said. "We put him where we needed him on the defense side and he was always there to make the big play."
The three players were instrumental in leading the Bulldogs to a successful and historic season. Burbank went 10-3 — 5-2 in the Pacific League to tie for second place — and advanced to the division semifinals for the first time since 1927.