Through the spring and into summer practices, the Burroughs High football team thought it had its starting quarterback in place.
Last season, Steven Hubbell didn't see much time as the Indians' backup signal-caller. However, he knew the offense and was slotted to be the team's starter for the 2014 season. However, Hubbell, who is also an all-league basketball player for Burroughs, decided to concentrate on hoops and left the team.
"It was a tough adjustment at first when he left," said returning senior running back/linebacker Michael Ospina, who is one of five team captains. "We had the entire team try out for quarterback to hopefully find somebody. But we didn't want to let something like that affect us and bring us down.
"We have found someone and brought him up from the JV team and he is doing really well for us."
Getting the starting nod for the Indians when they open their season Sept. 5 with a nonleague home game against Camarillo is 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior Andy Amela.
"When Hubbell decided to concentrate on basketball he was close with a lot of the guys on the team, so they kind of took it a little personally," said Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop, who has been involved with the program for 22 years. "They were pretty upset because he had a great spring and early summer. He came out and he was doing a great job. When he left there was a kind of audible gasp with the team, like 'What are we gong to do now?'
"So we had some open tryouts and we found Andy, who was on the JV level as a receiver. We knew he could throw the ball, but he just never played quarterback before. So we brought him up and he has been a sponge. He has a very strong arm and he really wants to learn. He has really embraced the position and we're really excited about him. The team has really bounded behind him."
Burroughs is coming off a 2013 season that brought with it mixed results. Although the Indians went 1-2 in the preseason, they rebounded and went 5-2 in the Pacific League. Burroughs (6-5) finished in a three-way tie for second in league with Burbank and Crescenta Valley and made the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, falling in the first round to La Serna, 55-7. La Serna went on to win the championship against Norwalk, 41-38.
On offense, the Indians have been filling spots left by the graduation of starting quarterback Andrew Williams (second-team all-league) and wide receiver Conor Joyce (first-team all-league). Last season, Williams completed 112 of 184 passes for 1,467 yards with 15 touchdowns. Joyce hauled in 44 catches for 713 yards (16.2 yards a catch) and 12 of the team's 14 touchdown receptions on the year.
Amela should have the luxury of playing behind a formidable Burroughs offensive line, which has been one of the program's calling cards for years. The contingent is led by senior Andrew Mills (6-1, 300), a first-team all-league selection in 2013. He will be joined by senior Anthony Olea (6-1, 265), senior Shawn Edie (6-2, 285), junior Justin Gonzalez (6-6, 245), sophomore Tommy Howe (5-10, 210), sophomore Jesse Chamberlain (6-1, 225) and senior Paul Gonzalez (5-11, 280), who could all see playing time.
"The 'O' line is extremely tight," said Olea, who is also a team captain. "I have known my left tackle Andrew Mills for so many years and we are just a really close group. I know we have the strongest line in the league; from center to left tackle we all bench press 300 pounds. And we know the tradition of linemen at Burroughs and we all have been working hard."
Taking advantage of that line will be running backs Ospina (5-6, 155) — who will also play at slot receiver — junior Hunter Guerin (5-9, 135), junior Ash Hawkins (5-10, 155) and junior Brandon Garcia (5-8, 205). The Indians also got a transfer from Las Vegas in sophomore Chance Bell (5-8, 165).
Targets for Amela at wide receiver will be returner Anthony Archuleta (5-8, 140), who will be joined by juniors Aidan Jensen (6-2, 185) and Erick Hernendez (5-10, 145).
Also seeing time at receiver is senior Aidan Anding (25 receptions for 346 yards), a versatile athlete who will be used in a multitude of positions. Along with being the team's back-up quarterback, Anding will return punts, return kicks, could see time in the backfield at running back and will play in the defensive secondary.
"Aidan is just a great athlete," Knoop said. "We will use him wherever we need him. We want to keep him on the field as much as we can."
Said Anding: "I am really open to doing whatever they need me to do and getting as much playing time as I can. I want to be out there."
Burroughs has the advantage of having an all-league first-team returning kicker in senior Andres Aguilar, who will also do the punting. Knoop said Aguilar routinely boots 50-yard and longer field goals in practice and has been receiving interest from Division I colleges.
On defense, the Indians will have an entirely new line. Because of that, Knoop is going to a three-man front for the first time. Seeing time will be junior Anthony Garcia (6-1, 200), Gonzalez, junior Bryce Martinez (5-9, 235) and junior Evan Gurley (5-11, 175).
One position that Burroughs is hurting at is linebacker.
"We started out with a ton of linebackers and they were all looking good, but we've had injuries, concussions and quitting," Knoop said. "So we are literally now, unless something changes, down to only four linebackers."
The current crop of healthy linebackers consists of returning junior Connor Garden (5-10, 200), Garcia, senior Justin Boyle (5-9, 170) and senior Josh Quintero (5-8, 185).
In the secondary will be Anding, junior Nick Tipton (5-7, 150), Guerin, Archuleta and junior Devlan Jimenez (5-10, 155).
Knoop, whose teams have captured Pacific League championships in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011, said in the race for this year's league championship, everything has to go through two-time defending champ Muir.
"Until they run out of athletes, which I don't see happening any time soon, they are the team to beat in league," he said. "They are well-coached, they have the athletes and they are always a big, physical team. They just have another gear that a lot of other teams just don't have."
Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.