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Football Preview: Burroughs hoping bounce-back will lead to playoff berth

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The Burroughs offensive and defensive lines collide while working on blocking assignments during a recent preseason practice at Memorial Field.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

The Burroughs High football team is in a precarious situation this season.

In fact, it is the second straight year the Indians are facing similar circumstances.

For this season, the Indians have been moved down to the very manageable CIF Southern Section Division XI. In 2018, Burroughs was placed in Division X, after being in Division VIII in 2017.

Burroughs second-year coach Rand Holdren feels if his team can get to the playoffs, being in such a low division, the team could make some noise and hopefully be able to advance a few rounds in the postseason.

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Burroughs' head coach Rand Holdren tosses two footballs, one to each quarterback, during a passing drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)
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“We feel if we could get there, we could compete,” Holdren said. “We feel last season we could have done something in the playoffs if we got there.

“But that’s the problem — getting there.”

In the Pacific League, only the top three finishers receive the three guaranteed playoff berths. And with wild-card bids hard to come by, the Indians will likely have to finish in one of those three spots — or hope for as rare wild-card entry — to make the playoffs.

“Our league is very tough and those top three spots are very hard to come by,” Holdren said.

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“All we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can and give it our best.”

The Indians will be looking for a substantial turnaround if they hope to accomplish that feat. Burroughs is coming off a season in which it went 2-8 and finished 2-5 in the Pacific League.

Burroughs’ lone win on the field was a 45-6 league victory against Glendale. It also received a forfeit league win against Hoover after the Tornadoes withdrew from a number of games stemming from an on-campus fight involving players.

The 2018 season marked the third straight that the Indians didn’t qualify for the playoffs. The last time Burroughs made the postseason was 2015, when they captured a Pacific League title under former coach Keith Knoop, who stepped aside after that season.

It also marked the second consecutive year the Indians played just nine games, as a fire in the Santa Clarita Valley nixed a nonleague game in 2017.

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Burroughs' quarterback Nick Garcia throws a pass during a drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

“We can’t be thinking about that we haven’t been to the playoffs in this many years or we didn’t do what we wanted to do last season,” said Holdren, who is in his second season. “We just have to focus on our goals and things will work out for us. We have just been quietly working to achieve those goals.”

Burroughs will look to kick-start its turnaround when it opens the season at home at 7 p.m. Thursday with a nonleague game against Hueneme at Memorial Field.

The Indians will also host Victor Valley and travel to La Palma Kennedy and Harvard-Westlake for nonleague contests. Burroughs added a fourth nonleague game this season after Hoover decided not to field a varsity squad for 1019 campaign.

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Burroughs' Aiden Forrester brings in a catch during a drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)
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Burroughs will open Pacific League play Sept. 20 on the road against Glendale and will take part in the annual “Big Game” cross-town rivalry against Burbank on Nov. 1 at Memorial Field.

The Indians have their share of returning players this season.

Returning to help pace the offense is all-league junior running back Luke Rodgers. In 2018, Rogers finished with 801 yards rushing in 204 carries and scored four touchdowns.

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Burroughs' Ellington Simmons reaches up for a catch during a drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

“Luke is a beast,” Holdren said. “He has gotten bigger and we expect him to be even better for us this season.

“We have some different options on offense, so that’s exciting. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of things, and that’s fun football.”

Said Rogers: “I think a lot of us played on the team last year and we’re close, so that helps out a lot. And the sophomores who have come up have blended with us really well. I think we just have a very good team mentality.

“For us this year, making the playoffs is everything to us and you will hear that from a lot of the guys. I like our squad this year and I think we have a really good chance to make it.”

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Burroughs' Ellington Simmons brings in a pass during a passing drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

Returning to handle the quarterbacking duties is senior Nick Garcia. In the slot will be senior Aiden Forrester, a dangerous kick-returner who has brought the ball back for six touchdowns the last two seasons. Also returning after taking a season off is senior slot Carson Cardenaz.

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“I think we have a lot more experience this year, and that’s going to help us,” Garcia said. “We had a lot of young guys last year who were still learning. We’re looking forward to playing this season and looking forward to going against good teams.”

Also handling the ball in the backfield and seeing time at receiver will be senior Ellington Simmons and sophomore Elijah Aldana-Pere.

Helping shore up the offensive line will be senior Allen Arriaga , senior Eric Quintero, who was injured last season, senior Caden Cardenaz, junior Brandon Sowers and sophomore Jose Oliveros.

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Burroughs' Aiden Forrester waits for the ball to float into his arms during a passing drill at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

Many of those same offensive linemen will be rotating on defense.

A key returning linebacker for the Indians will be Henry Diaz, who earned all-league honors last season after notching 63 tackles and two interceptions. He will be joined by Rogers, Carson Cardenaz and Forrester.

In the defensive secondary will be junior John Alajijian, senior Diego Castellon, Simmons and Aldana-Pere.

Doing the punting and kicking will be Diaz and Forrester.

“As a team for us, everyone wants to go to the playoffs this year and that is something that is really important to us,” Forrester said. “I think after last year’s disappointment everybody is more fueled up and hyped up and we just want to go hard and give it our best.

“I think we are going to come out and do better this year. We all want to win.”

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Burroughs' head coach Rand Holdren at football practice at Burroughs High School in Burbank on Tuesday, August 13, 2019.
(Tim Berger/Burbank Leader)

Arcadia is the defending Pacific League champion, while Burbank was second and Crescenta Valley was third last season. Burroughs finished sixth. With Hoover out, the league is down to seven teams, which also includes Pasadena and Mur.

“I like our chances in league this year,” Holdren said. “But this is a league that is very competitive and you never know what’s going to happen. Our league can be a toss-up.

“But we know because of the last few years nobody thinks anything of us and nobody respects us, and we haven’t really earned that respect. We need to earn that respect.”


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