LA CAÑADA — Rust and jitters played about as big a factor as an actual opponent for the Burbank High and Flintridge Prep boys' water polo teams.
The intradivisional squads looked a bit off in their season opener Thursday afternoon even as the host Rebels made a late push toward the end of the third quarter and cemented a 14-7 nonleague victory.
"This is my fifth year and I've come to realize that in this first game you can expect anything," Rebels Coach Dan Hare said. "We had a little run and then the momentum switched and then they rattled off some goals.
"We have some new personnel and we're working on some new things and I'm excited that we were able to answer the bell and make a run."
Flintridge Prep, which entered the contest ninth-ranked in the first CIF Southern Section Division IV poll of the season, led by five goals in the first half before settling for a 7-3 advantage at the break.
After the stoppage, though, Burbank made its best push all game when the Bulldogs forced five turnovers through the first five minutes, three via ball-under penalties, and reeled off three straight goals.
Two of the scores came from Artur Mheryan, who led his squad with three goals, three steals and one assist.
Perhaps the junior's most impressive strike came at the 2:37 mark in the third, when the attacker split the double team of Aidan Schraeder and Ty Burnham and flicked a goal past goalie Alex Hirsch Marin (six saves) to bring the visitors within 7-6.
"When we stick to our plan, we're able to generate offense," said Bulldogs Coach Gilbert Raposa, a late hire who's barely had around a month to work with his team. "We had a nice run where were scored three unanswered, but we didn't keep it going."
Immediately after Mheryan's score, Hare made substitutions and his squad responded in kind by also forcing a Burbank ball-under call that directly resulted in a breakaway goal from senior Diego Delgado with 2:18 left that gave the Rebels a two-goal lead.
"[Burbank] is a good team and I'm not going to take anything away from them," said Delgado, who finished with a match-high six goals, five assists and two steals, "they played well when they came back.
"But at that point, we felt comfortable and we wanted to allow some of the younger players a chance to come in and play and Burbank took advantage."
Delgado keyed the Rebels' quarter-closing 3-0 run that included a five-meter penalty goal, created off a turnover, and a final score with 22 seconds left from junior Miles Harber, who was assisted by Delgado.
Even though Burbank trailed, 10-6, after three quarters, the Bulldogs tried to rally and closed within 10-7 on a steal and score from Mheryan with 6:11 left.
Again, though, Flintridge Prep responded with a spurt, this time a 4-0 game-ending run that inflated the score to 14-7.
"We responded, that's what I like most," Hare said. "Sure, we didn't play as well as we should have, but it's the first game and we're still working."
Flintridge Prep opened the contest with goals from Alexander Maletis, Kasen Barraclough and Delgado in racing to a 3-0 lead.
Burbank countered with two of the quarter's last three goals thanks to scores from John Angel and Adam Luenburg to close its deficit to 4-2.
While Burbank outshot Flintridge Prep, 11-8, in the second quarter, the Rebels still won the period, 3-1, thanks to a smothering defense that forced six turnovers and produced a 7-3 advantage.
Other than Delgado, the trio of Sean King (four steals and two assists), Barraclough (two steals and one assist) and Maletis tallied two goals each for Flintridge Prep, while platoon goalie Gregory Walsh finished with nine saves.
Luenburg finished with two goals and one steal for Burbank, which received a 10-save effort from senior goalie Ryan Griffin.
"We're going to keep working, putting in our time and improving," Raposa said. "This was a first game and we didn't play that well, but we have a lot to learn from and work on."