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A glow is emanating from the Burbank...

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

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who are beaming with pride and basking in the afterglow of a

successful season.

The light is a welcome change from the perpetual darkness of

failure and disappointment the program had experienced for more than

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a decade.

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

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the game.

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

wrong.

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

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considered a joke, not only in the Foothill League, but throughout

the region.

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

fault.

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

nine years.

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

meeting.

Under another coach’s watch six years ago, Burbank had to scrap

the season for its junior varsity team because of a lack of

participation.

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

winner.

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

School, 31-0.

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

come.


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