Crusaders on a mission

Jeff Tully

It’s been two weeks since the Burbank and Burroughs football teams

were eliminated from the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.

The third area team -- Bellarmine-Jefferson -- didn’t even make it


to the postseason, despite a 7-3 record.

However, just across the city limits in Sun Valley, a group of

local athletes is not only still competing in the playoffs, but are

one step away from playing for a Division XII championship.


Village Christian School, which includes 11 Burbank residents, is

playing at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a Division XII semifinal game against

visiting Ontario Christian at Granada Hills Kennedy High.

Crusaders’ Coach Marty Martin said having a large contingent of

players from Burbank has been a long-standing trend at the school,

not only in football, but in other sports as well.

A good number of those athletes have learned the fundamentals of

the sport and gained game experience competing for the Burbank


Vikings Youth Tackle Football Program.

“We always get good kids who have participated in the Burbank

Vikings’ program,” Martin said. “We support the program and we buy an

ad every year in their program. I even take a picture with all the

Vikings who are on our team to go in the program.

“The Vikings really do a fine job at teaching the kids football at

an early age. I give a lot of credit to [President] Mike McDonald for

helping the program come back. And you can see the difference in the


program since Mike’s taken over.”

Senior lineman Dustin Burke and senior running back/linebacker

Tyler Martin -- the coach’s son -- played on the same Burbank

Vikings’ team when they were younger.

“Those guys are products of the program, and I think it is a very

important program to have for the young players,” Martin said. “And I

look for the program to keeping getting stronger and more


Success is something Village Christian (10-2) has had a knack for

this season. Its only losses have been against Flintridge Prep, 20-7,

and Westlake Village Oaks Christian, 55-20, teams that are still in

the playoffs and competing in divisional semifinal games.

Martin said although the loss to Flintridge Prep was

disappointing, it served as a turning point in the Crusaders’ season.

“We thought we could just show up and we would be able to win,” he


“I would say after the Flintridge game, we really got to it that

week in practice, and that put us on track for the rest of the


Since the loss to the Rebels, Village Christian has been on a

mission, rolling to seven straight victories and outscoring its

opponents, 307-49.

One of the team’s biggest accomplishments came on Nov. 14 when it

captured an Alpha League championship, easily defeating rival North

Hills L.A. Baptist, 54-14, in the annual “Bible Bowl.”

With his team on a roll, Martin said he expects his players to be

ready for the most important game of their season tonight against

Ontario Christian (10-2).

It will be a grudge match for Village Christian, which lost to the

Knights, 34-7, in last year’s division quarterfinals.

“We know Ontario Christian is going to be a very good team,” said

Martin, whose team includes 21 seniors.

“We set our goal last year, when we lost them in the

quarterfinals, to be CIF champions this season. And we have worked

since January to accomplish that goal.”

Martin said one of the biggest motivations for his players is

their desire to win the first CIF title in the 54-year history of the

football program.

It would be just the school’s third championship, after the boys’

volleyball team and softball team won titles in May.

“We have a camp every year when we first start practice,” Martin

said. “We got all the players together and we asked them ‘What kind

of legacy do you want to leave, and what do you want your memory to

be with this team?’ Each kid had a chance to respond and almost all

of them said they wanted to win a CIF championship.”

With a win against Ontario Christian, the Crusaders could

accomplish their mission Dec. 13 in the title game at a site to be