In Burbank High’s final football game before starting league play, the Bulldogs had a path to even their nonleague record with a win at Hart.
However, the host Indians got in the way.
Hart led a valiant Bulldogs squad from start to finish and the Indians defeated Burbank, 31-13, in a nonleague game at Cougar Stadium on the campus of the College of the Canyons Friday night.
“That is a good team, and you can’t make mistakes against Hart,” Burbank coach Adam Colman said.
The catalyst for success for Hart (1-2) was running back Taden Littleford. The senior led all rushers with 27 carries for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
"[Burbank] plays pretty good defense. We were having trouble with the pass, so we had to go to the run,” Hart coach Mike Herrington said. “I think we were just a little bigger up front. It was a real challenge for us.”
With the loss, Burbank, despite a solid performance against the Indians, finishes the nonleague portion of its schedule with a 1-3 record. However, the experience still had value for Colman.
“We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew when we scheduled these games that this was a good squad,” the third-year coach said.
“We’d have loved to get a win. We feel like we left an opportunity out there, but with our nonleague schedule the whole point was to schedule up and play some top-quality opponents. We want to win them all, but no matter what, it prepares you and now we are ready for league.”
The first points of the game came in the waning moments of the first quarter. Littleford proved instrumental during the drive and, appropriately, was the one to finish it. The junior took the handoff behind a power formation and plowed the ball up the middle for a three-yard score.
Two Bulldogs possessions later, the visitors imploded. Burbank’s Brandon Pena made a reception, but soon after fumbled the ball which was recovered by Indians Max Bjorkman. It got worse from there for Pena, who was called for a personal foul and subsequently ejected. That means the junior will not be allowed to play next week versus Arcadia.
“We had a couple of crucial mistakes that got us down at half,” Colman said. “We battled. The fumble was big. It set them up for a touchdown.”
With a short field, Hart struck quickly for a touchdown. On the hosts’ first play after the fumble, Littleford notched a second rushing touchdown, this one coming from 12 yards out to make it 14-0.
Credit to Burbank, as Bulldogs put things back together on their next drive. Quarterback Aram Araradian arced a ball over the Indians secondary and into the hands of Ben Burnham, who ran down the seam of the left side for a 49-yard touchdown.
Araradian finished 14 of 28 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Burnham led all receivers with five catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
In the final minute of the first half, Littleford found a bit of magic on a 52-yard run. The Bulldogs appeared to have him stopped near the line, but he spun and got a hand down to the turf to retain his balance, allowing him to carry the ball deep into the Bulldogs’ territory. Hart then kicked a 30-yard field goal as the clock hit zero for a 17-7 lead at the half.
“We felt really good at halftime,” Colman said. “We were right there. It was just a couple plays here and there. We’re in this game.”
Hart came out of halftime and punched Burbank right in the gut with a five-play 58-yard scoring drive on the opening possession of the third. Indians quarterback Zach Johnson capped it off with a 26-yard run that saw the senior fake a pass outside, then cut up inside.
Johnson finished 17 of 31 for 184 yards through the air. On the ground, he had three carries for 30 yards and the score.
Burbank blocked a very low field goal attempt on the Indians’ next drive. This paved the way for another Arardian-to-Burnham connection. The Burbank quarterback bombed a pass over the middle that Burnham hauled in among defenders before sprinting the rest of the way into the end zone. It would be the final points for the visitors, coming with 25 seconds left in the third.
The only touchdown of the final quarter came once again courtesy of Littleford. After leaving the field screaming in pain earlier in the drive, he came back onto the field and, behind the jumbo package for the hosts, ran the ball for a two-yard score.
Arardian then threw an interception, ending any hope of a miraculous comeback.
Up next for Burbank will be the Bulldogs’ Pacific League next Friday on the road against defending-league champion Arcadia.
"[Burbank] is definitely going to be a playoff team in the Pacific League,” Herrington prognosticated.
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