The football coaches at Burbank High and Burroughs don’t always get along.
In fact, in the more than six decades the area programs have been taken part in the rivalry, there has been some coaches who would have preferred to partake in their own rivalry against the opposition’s leader behind Memorial Field.
“When the coaches get along, I think that takes some of the pressure off the rivalry, in terms of pumping up the big game,” Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said. “Whereas in the past, I’m not too sure each of the head coaches liked each other. That added a little oomph to it. Sometimes you wanted to win just to stuff it in the other guy’s face.”
None of that kind of bad blood will occur at this year’s Big Game, as the Bulldogs and Indians will meet for their 63rd installment of the rivalry at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Field. Knoop, along with his Burbank counterpart, Hector Valencia, actually like one another, and the two are friends.
“We just met for breakfast on Saturday to exchange tapes and to talk football,” Valencia said.
Knoop and Valencia are actually both Burbank High alumni, with the Burroughs coach graduating in 1981 and the Bulldogs coach graduating in 1993.
Both have a great deal of respect for one another, and realize that they are both in the same fight to elevate the play of high school football in the city. As a result, both donate their time with the Burbank Vikings Youth Tackle Football program.
“In fact, both coaches are on our board of directors,” said Craig Hunter, the president of the Vikings. “Whenever I ask them to do something, they are all over it and they are always willing to help. They are really helpful to the program.”
Knoop and Valencia appear to have a lot in common, and they take similar approaches to coaching. In addition, the coaches have a mutual respect for one another, and each realizes the other will have his squad prepared for Thursday’s game.
But don’t be fooled; Knoop and Valencia want to beat the other in the Big Game.
“I have nothing but respect for Keith and what he’s done over the years at Burroughs,” Valencia said. “We have a good relationship and we can talk about things. But when it comes down to it, we want to win the game and we’re going into the game focused on taking it.”
With Knoop being a Burbank graduate, some might think that he still bleeds a little Bulldog blue. However, although he admits he has fond memories of his alma mater, he had become a proud Indian.
“I really don’t think of myself as a Bulldog any more,” Knoop said. “A lot of my friends have their kids at Burbank playing football, and they all know where I played…I like to tell people that I went to Burbank for three years, but I’ve been at Burroughs for 18. And they pay me here!”
Both of the coaches have their respective teams playing at a high level this season. The squads come into the rivalry game with identical 5-1 records in the Pacific League. However, Arcadia — which will take on Crescenta Valley on Friday — also boasts a 5-1 mark. That means if the Apaches defeat the Falcons — which seems likely — either the Indians (5-4) or the Bulldogs (7-2) will be bumped from the championship picture.
Last season, Burroughs and Burbank shared the league title after the Bulldogs downed their rival in the Big Game, 28-21.
“We know if we win, we’ll get the title,” Valencia said. “We just can’t worry about what [Arcadia] is going to do. We just have to worry about ourselves, and what we need to do to win the game.”
Knoop said he and has a similar philosophy.
“Our guys know what they have to do,” said Knoop, whose team is trying to win its third league crown in five years. “We’re not going into this as the Burbank-Burroughs game. We’re going into this thinking that if we win we’re in first place, but if we don’t we’ll be a fourth-place team and we have to play the No. 1 seed [in the division for the playoffs].”
There is all the added wrinkle to the game, as this is supposed to be the final rivalry contest at the decaying Memorial Field. After the season, the venue is scheduled to be torn down and a new stadium facility and running track are to be built.