A glow is emanating from the Burbank High School campus.
The ambient illumination has nothing to do with the light fixtures
that adorn the newly constructed areas of the school. Instead, it
comes from a group of Bulldog varsity football players and coaches
who are beaming with pride and basking in the afterglow of a
The light is a welcome change from the perpetual darkness of
failure and disappointment the program had experienced for more than
Although Burbank lost Friday in the first round of the California
Intercollegiate Federation Southern Section Division II playoffs
against host Chino High School, 28-7, ending its year, the Bulldogs
have had a monumental season.
Along with compiling a 6-5 record, the Bulldogs broke records, put
together fine performances and surprised many in the high school
football community with their gritty play and positive approach to
Leading Burbank out of the dark ages of defeat and despair was a
soft-spoken coach who truly loves his job, and who would rather tell
a player what he did right than yell at him after he does something
In just his second year, Coach Greg Sobiech and his staff have
instilled pride and sense of worth in players who have had to endure
the taunts and ridicule that come with playing for a program once
considered a joke, not only in the Foothill League, but throughout
Sobiech, whose team was 2-8 in 2002, deserves a tremendous amount
of credit for taking over a team that many prospective coaches
wouldn’t touch, as well as caring about more than just wins and
losses in his quest to mold young athletes.
Because of its unflattering reputation, not many opponents took
Burbank seriously, and the school was never considered much of a
threat on the football field before this season.
Instead of trying to put a positive spin on the program’s years of
futility, Sobiech has always said Burbank’s past reputation was often
deserved. Sobiech maintains that, for more than a decade, the
school’s failure to produce a competitive product has been its own
One of the reasons Burbank has not been able to find success in
recent years is because of instability with its coaches. Bulldog
coaches rarely last more than a few years -- they either quit or are
run out of the program. The merry-go-round has yielded six coaches in
One former coach ignited a sex scandal involving an underage
Bulldog player in the mid-1990s. The program also was rocked as
recently as two seasons ago, when it had no athletes nominated for
all-league honors because its coach failed to attend the nomination
Under another coach’s watch six years ago, Burbank had to scrap
the season for its junior varsity team because of a lack of
To his credit, Sobiech was able to look past the program’s
problematic past, and held firm to the belief that he could build a
The season began with a great deal of success, as Burbank rolled
to a 4-1 nonleague record, the program’s best start in 15 years.
One of Burbank’s biggest accomplishments came Oct. 24, when it
broke a 51-game league losing streak with a 16-14 win against Saugus
High School. The victory was the team’s first in league since 1992.
The team nearly added a huge upset to its league accomplishments a
week later against Canyon Country Canyon High School. Canyon came
into the game ranked third in Division II, and not many gave the
Bulldogs a chance to win the Halloween-night contest. However,
unranked Burbank put a big fright into the Cowboys, and came up just
a few yards short in a 39-33 defeat.
The Bulldogs also buried another long-standing losing streak Nov.
15 in the 55th annual Burbank-Burroughs cross-town rivalry game.
Burbank prevailed, 24-18, to record its first win against its rival
in 11 years.
It was a season of streak-breaking for the Bulldogs, and that was
apparent with their appearance in the Division II playoffs. The
players -- most of whom were in kindergarten the last time the
program made the postseason -- earned the school’s first postseason
berth since 1991, when Burbank was defeated by Los Alamitos High
With a breakthrough season behind them, don’t look for the
Bulldogs to experience a letdown next year. With a talented crop of
underclassmen, including junior quarterback/defensive back Mike
McDonald, junior running back Tanner Bennett, sophomore running
back/defensive back Jason McNeil, sophomore fullback/linebacker Jason
Barbic, junior lineman Mike Burrows, junior linebacker Mike Wysocky
and junior wide receiver/defensive back Jesse Ayers, Burbank should
again have a talented squad.
With a promising future to build on, and Sobiech leading the way,
look for things to remain bright with Burbank football for years to