It was not too many years ago that the Burbank High football team struggled to make the postseason, and the Bulldogs were relegated to the doormat of the league.
But six seasons ago, Burbank was moved from the tough Foothill League to the much more manageable Pacific League, and in five years has not missed making the Southern Section playoffs.
The addition of Coach Hector Valencia three years has also paid dividends. In 2009, the Bulldogs shared the league championship with cross-town rival Burroughs, and last season the squad was in contention for a title going into the final game of the regular season.
A former Burbank player, Valencia has a personal interest in seeing the program flourish. He has made it a point to build up the program and make sure the Bulldogs are competitive year in and year out.
Valencia said the Burbank program has evolved over the past few seasons, and there now exists an environment where the players expect to win and to be successful. That wasn't the case six years ago.
"We have built up a tradition here at Burbank High the last few years and the kids expect to win now," said Valencia, whose team opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday with a nonleague Zero Week game at Warren. "That is the kind of attitude they have right now, because they know that we have had success and we've won in the past.
"We just want to put ourselves in a position to succeed, and we've done that the last few seasons. We really feel positive at the direction the program is going right now."
Burbank (7-4, 5-2 in league) is coming off a 2010 season in which it placed third in the Pacific League, after falling to the Indians in the regular-season finale. The Bulldogs fell to Santa Fe, 28-14, in the first round of the Southeast Division playoffs.
Unfortunately for Burbank, it lost some key players to graduation, players who put up big numbers and set school records during their tenure.
Two of those players were linebacker Ryan Seidler and running back Ulisies Ochoa, who both earned All-CIF accolades. Ochoa, the program's all-time rushing leader, had 180 carries for 1,255 yards and had 18 touchdowns and Seidler led the league with 151 tackles and averaged nearly 14 a game.
The program also graduated quarterback Adam Colman, who completed 129 of 241 passes for 2,066 yards, 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Valencia said he has some sophomores moving up to varsity from a Bulldogs' freshman team that went 10-0 and won a Pacific League championship last season.
"We have been getting very good freshman teams," he said. "Really, the freshman team is always expected to go 10-0 and the [junior varsity] team has also been competitive."
With Colman's departure, Burbank will look to bolster its running game. Coming out of the backfield will be returning seniors Quortney Brazier (5-feet-9, 175 pounds) and Herman Castro (5-11, 165) and junior Teddy Arlington (5-8, 175).
In 2010, Brazier had 83 rushes for 633 yards and six touchdowns and had 14 catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Arlington had 45 carries for 327 yards and a touchdown.
"We have a three-back set that looks pretty good," Valencia said. "These guys are all fast and they are going to give us a lot of speed in the backfield."
At fullback is sophomore fullback Joseph Pennelton (5-7, 200), who could see time on the junior varsity level the first week before moving up. Senior Daniel Martinez (5-7, 150) could also see time at fullback.
One of the players the coach said he has been impressed with is senior Mitch Camacho (5-8, 175). Along with being a starting wide receiver, Camacho will also play in the defensive secondary. Senior Bryan Lainez (5-9, 170) will play both positions as well.
Throughout the summer, it was been a battle between three players vying for the starting quarterback spot: senior transfer Austin Mowatt (5-11, 185), senior Nick Geraci (6-0, 170) and junior Zak Tomilinson (5-10, 160).
"It has been a really good battle between the three guys," Valencia said. "We will probably find out who's our starter later this week, and it may even be a game-time decision. But we are confident that we will have someone in place who can guide the team."
The Bulldogs have a young offensive line that features mostly juniors. The anchor of the group is junior tackle Steven Kim (5-10, 255), who earned all-league honors last season. Senior Broderick Jenkins (6-1, 235) will also be manning the line.
"Those two guys are going to be the key to our line," Valencia said. "And they will also play defense."
On defense, Martin Bacon, who coached at Citrus College, takes over as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator. He will be faced with the task of filling the spots left by the graduating seniors.
At defensive back will be Brazier, Arlington and Castro, and returning to head the linebacking crew in place of Seidler is Martinez, who was a full-time starter last season.
The team's kicker will be senior David Hacobian (5-8, 140), and Valencia said they are still looking for someone who can step up and take over as the starting punter.
Valencia fully expects his team to not only earn a playoff berth, but to also challenge for the league championship.
"As far as flat-out skill level, Arcadia should have a very good team," he said. "We saw them in summer and they looked strong. Burroughs really looks good with their offensive line. They are big and you have to give them respect for that line.
"I think that with our skill level that we are going to be able to compete with anyone out there. There is some great talent in the league this year, but we're very comfortable where we are right now."