BURBANK — It was a litmus test of sorts for the Burbank High football team on Friday night.
The Bulldogs hosted a formidable, high-powered Hart squad with similar playoff aspirations in the first meeting of the programs since 2005, when they were both members of the Foothill League.
Perhaps just two reasons for the playoff atmosphere at Memorial Field. Burbank played the Indians tough early, but faltered in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, before falling, 49-28.
Hart, led by standout quarterback Zach Johnson (19 of 30 for 255 yards and five touchdowns), was held to 135 yards of total offense in the first half, but made adjustments to gain 262 in a second half as it outscored Burbank, 28-7.
In turn, Burbank (1-2) managed just one positive drive in the second half in a game it led, 14-0, in the first quarter.
Simply put, Hart made more plays.
“Crucial third-down plays, plays after a turnover, big momentum plays,” Burbank Coach Adam Colman said. “They made them and we didn’t. Critical moments.”
Hart Coach Mike Herrington isn’t a stranger to playing in Burbank. Colman praised the Hart coach, saying his teams have been making plays for years.
“Been to Memorial a number of times,” said Herrington, who is in his 30th season at Hart.
“[Burbank] has a talented team. “We had a few hiccups but we settled down and went to work. Our defense had a hard time containing their [quarterback]. We did it enough in the second half to keep them out of the end zone.”
It only took 14 seconds for Burbank’s crowd to erupt as Brandon Pena took the game’s opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
With 4:38 to play in the first quarter, quarterback Matthew Porras found Chadz Vang for an 11-yard touchdown. Porras finished the game 10 of 24 for 122 yards and rushed 13 times for 50 yards.
The Indians made more momentum-shifting plays than the Bulldogs, including kickoff returner Michael Colangelo taking the ensuing offering 97 yards to put Hart on the scoreboard.
Burbank’s offense didn’t gain more than eight yards on any of their next four possessions. Meanwhile, the Indians tied the game at 14 with just over nine minutes to play in the second when Johnson hit Jacob Montes on a touchdown pass.
Ethan Blair (111 yards in 24 carries) gave Hart its first lead of the game midway through the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown run.
Vang answered with his second touchdown of the game — a 15-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to play.
Herrington didn’t like his team’s first-half effort.
“Some of the guys didn’t respect their opponent,” he said. “You need to respect every opponent, every game. They thought they did but they didn’t.”
Hart responded with an 11-play drive to open the second half that took up the first five minutes of the third quarter. A penalty on third and long went against Burbank, extending the Indians’ drive. They capitalized with a Johnson to Colangelo touchdown.
Hart took its biggest lead of the game on its next possession when Johnson hooked up with Drew Munoz for the first of three touchdowns.
“Our young guys are still learning some things,” Colman said. “You’re six inches from knocking the ball down but it doesn’t matter if the ball ends up in the end zone.”
Porras and the Burbank offense answered Munoz’s first touchdown on a drive that started on their own 35. A gutsy run by Porras set up a pass play he kept alive enough to find Duncan Smith open in the flat. Smith then bolted 48 yards to cut the deficit in half, 35-28.