Winning the numbers game

There has been a definite upswing with the Burbank High and Burroughs football programs the past few years.

Last season, the Indians shared the Pacific League championship and the Bulldogs were in contention for a title until the final regular-season game. The Indians also notched their first CIF Southern Section playoff victory in 22 years.

In 2009, Burroughs and Burbank both earned a share of the league crown, which was the Bulldogs' first in 37 years.

In 2008, Burbank notched a postseason win to break an 81-year playoff drought.

Many believe that success is a direct correlation to the success and large numbers seen in the Burbank Vikings Youth Tackle Football program during that span. The Vikings organization is the only tackle football group in the city, and it routinely serves as a feeder program for the area's high school teams.

"I went over to Burbank High recently to watch the freshman team practice," said Vikings President Craig Hunter. "I looked out at one time and all the kids who were on the field were Vikings. That Burbank High freshman team has probably about 20 players who were on the Vikings. It's nice to see."

Although the program suffered through hard times in the 1980s through the mid-1990s — even disbanding for a time — it has experienced an increased interest and more players are coming out to play. When the Vikings kick off their 42nd season next month, they will boast one of their largest turnouts ever.

"We will have 11 teams this season, and that's tied for the most teams we've ever had in the history of the program," Hunter said. "We have a lot of players out and our numbers are excellent. Kids want to play football. It's a great turnout."

Hunter said the organization has also benefited from the help of Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop and Burbank Coach Hector Valencia. Over the years, the schools' coaches have helped out at clinics and practices, and Knoop and Valencia serve on the organization's board of directors as advisors.

"The two local coaches have been a real big help for us," Hunter said. "We appreciate what they do for us."

The organization is open to boys and girls 7 to 14, who play on teams determined by an age/weight formula.

The Viking teams will play eight to 10 regular-season games in the Pacific Youth Football League, which includes squads from San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Simi Valley and Santa Clarita.

PYFL games are largely played according to high-school rules. However, in keeping with the modern youth-sports philosophy of providing a fun and valuable experience for all, every player is guaranteed at least 12 downs of playing time per game.

There is also a no-piling-on rule and a 25-point rule, meaning that any time a team develops a 25-point advantage, it must remove its dominant players from the game.

It is, in fact, the PYFL's objective to "keep the welfare of the player first, foremost, and entirely free of the adult lust for glory," which is strictly followed.

Along with the regular season, Vikings' teams are also playing for a spot in the playoffs.

Home games will be played on Saturdays at Burbank High and the season-opening contests will be on Sept. 10.

Since its inception in 1969, the Vikings have helped develop its share of successful players. Organization alumni have gone on to star in high school, major college football, and a few have even made it to the NFL.

Along with the football aspect of the Vikings, the organization also has an award-winning Cheer Program, headed by Charlene Tabat.

Like the football side, the cheer organization has also continued to grow.

"We're twice as big as last year, and we have 71 cheerleaders," Tabat said. "It's really exciting. They really put in a lot of work and they do a great job."

Along with cheerleading at games, the Vikings also have a competition squad.

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