BURBANK — Just a goal separated the Burbank High and Hoover boys' water polo teams upon halftime of Tuesday afternoon's pivotal Pacific League clash.
Though it has been the Bulldogs as a whole rising to the sixth spot in the CIF Southern Section Division V rankings, it was Burbank standout Zach Card who became a one man gang offensively for his team, which soon followed suit in a mammoth third-quarter surge that turned a closely contested match into a one-sided rout, as Hoover fell to host Burbank, 15-5.
"In the third quarter, I just kind of woke up and played seriously," said Card, who scored three straight goals to open the third quarter, one in which the Bulldogs (7-4, 2-1) built a 5-3 halftime advantage into an overwhelming 12-4 lead at quarter's end. "Once we start to get things going, it's like wildfire, I guess.
"I woke up and the team saw that and they woke up, too."
And Burbank's wake-up call effectively put Hoover to sleep, as the Tornadoes (11-7, 2-1) were dealt their first league loss as they went ice cold offensively in the second half, missing shots badly and turning the ball over on seemingly every possession in the fourth quarter.
"I think it was a bad game in general, we could've played 10 times better," said Hoover goalie Dmitriy Ginosyan, who had eight saves and scored the Tornadoes' only goal of the third period. "This was a big disappointment for us today."
Card finished with a match-high eight goals, igniting the Bulldogs with a breakaway score 46 seconds into the second half. Thirty-four seconds later, he scored off a Patrick Vertani assist and 26 seconds after that — with a Hoover timeout sandwiched in between — Card made a spinning shot with a defender marking him well and Ginosyan just a few feet away for an 8-3 lead.
"We played pretty bad individually and you can't make up for your teammates' mistakes every time," Hoover Coach Kevin Witt said. "[The Bulldogs] did a good job exposing our weaknesses. We really had no answer for the individual mistakes we were making."
And after Card's one-man tour de force, his teammates continued the scoring parade, as Daniel Gonzalez scored on a one-timer off a Dante Nazarian pass to make it 9-3 before Nazarian scored three consecutive goals of his own, pushing the score to 12-3 with 30 seconds left in the period and running Burbank's overall run — which began with a Card goal in the second quarter — to eight straight goals.
Then, with time expiring in the quarter, Ginosyan let loose on a Hail Mary of a shot across the pool that fell in for a goal.
"I didn't even know how it went in," Ginosyan said. "It was pure luck."
But Burbank's pure dominance continued with another three goals inside the fourth quarter's first 3:30, including two from Card.
"I finally told the guys to step it up," said Burbank first-year Coach Kristina Garcia of what changed from the first half to the second. "I think they were thinking it wasn't Glendale, it's not CV. I think their mentality was it's Hoover.
"I need them all to step up from the first quarter."
Nazarian finished with three goals, while Gonzalez had two and Vertani and Arman Torosian had a goal apiece, with goalie Derek Baer tallying eight saves.
Card also scored back-to-back goals to bring Burbank to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, but Hoover's Arik Abedi cut the lead in half and back-to-back goals by Hakop Baghumian closed Burbank's lead to 4-3 going into a second quarter that saw only a Card score. Hakop Kaplanyan scored the last goal of the match for Hoover.
Despite the bitter taste of the lopsided setback, the Tornadoes will have to employ a short memory with another pivotal and arduous match on Thursday on the road again at Crescenta Valley.
"I'll take the blame for [the team not playing its best]. I don't think I got the team ready to play," Witt said. "We have a game Thursday, so as far as I'm concerned, it's behind us."
Burbank also has a tall task Thursday, as it faces reigning league champion Glendale on the road. The Nitros, who easily beat a Pasadena squad on Tuesday that previously defeated Burbank, are also the top-ranked team in the division.