Like its two cross-town counterparts, the Burroughs High football team has been dislodged from its home field this season.
However, unlike Burbank High, the Indians also lost their practice facility, as Memorial Field continues to be under renovation. That means along with having to play all of their games on the road during the 2011 campaign, the Indians also have been forced to hold their practices off campus, spending the summer at Luther Burbank Middle School.
Burroughs is also dealing with another loss, as more than 25 seniors from last season’s co-Pacific League championship team graduated.
The biggest losses were quarterback Lucas Yanez (1,965 yards passing, 19 touchdowns throwing and nine rushing touchdowns), running back Tadeo Zuniga (1,241 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns), linebacker Casey Barbello (144 tackles) and lineman Nick Brown (60 tackles).
Yanez was a three-year starter and was instrumental in helping lead Burroughs to league championships during his junior and senior seasons. He ended his career as the No. 2 all-time passer in school history and made the top 10 list among rushers.
“You just don’t replace someone like Lucas Yanez,” Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said.
Despite the departures, Knoop likes what he sees with this year’s group.
“It looks good for us,” said Knoop, whose team opens the season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a nonleague Zero Week game against Saugus at Canyon High. “Our weak spot in terms of just experience is going to be our linebackers. We had all returning guys last year and our only returner this season is [5 -foot-9, 170-pound senior] Kody Jensen.”
Burroughs did inherit a number of players from a successful junior varsity team that went 9-1 last season and won its third consecutive league championship.
“It’s important that those guys learned what it takes to be successful last season on the JV level,” Knoop said. “If kids aren’t used to winning, sometimes it’s something that you have to teach them. These guys know what to expect on the varsity level and the expectations are definitely there.”
Last season, the varsity team went 7-5 after beginning the season with three consecutive nonleague losses. The Indians went on to post a 6-1 league mark in league, sharing the title with Arcadia. It was Burroughs’ second consecutive crown.
The Indians also did well in the first round of the Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, notching the program’s first postseason win in 23 years with a 41-21 victory against El Rancho.
As has been Burroughs’ calling card for years, the Indians look to be strong on the offensive line and at the running back position. Knoop said he is always impressed with the work former Indians’ standout Mike Reily does as the team’s line coach.
“We have some good looking kids size wise,” Knoop said. “But over the years, Mike Reily has had some small players that he’s turned into all-league kids, who were awesome. That’s just the way he coaches. That is a huge advantage that we have, having someone like Mike Reily.”
The o-line boasts seniors Lester Quintana (6-2, 230), Raul Martinez (6-4, 270), Gus Ferrat (6-2, 220), Thomas Liro (5-11, 194) and Forrest Stevens (5-11, 200), along with juniors Joseph Wallace (6-3, 280) and Daniel Marbach (6-2, 250).
Liro was a second-team all-league pick last year.
Those horses will be looked upon to create holes for the Burroughs running backs. Leading the way for the ballcarriers is senior Zander Anding (6-0, 185). Knoop said he expects Anding to have a breakout season.
“He is bigger, faster and more motivated than he ever has been in his life,” said Knoop, who has helped cultivate star running backs like Dominique Barnes, Joe Wiggan, Dalton Williams, Thomas Kyle and Mike Perez. “He is just so versatile. He can play receiver, running back, or wherever we need him. He’s just special and just one of those kids you see move and you just say, ‘Wow.’ ”
As a backup to Zuniga last season, Anding carried the ball 70 times for 659 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had a 9.4 yards-per-carry average.
Also coming out of the backfield will be senior Damien Beltran (5-6, 135) and junior Israel Montes (5-0, 170).
Knoop feels like he has a good athlete who has taken over the quarterbacking duties. Senior Eli Peppmuller — an all-league second-team selection in 2010 at defensive back — learned from Yanez last season and now gets his turn to shine.
“He is physical and he likes to run,” Knoop said of Peppmuller. “He just doesn’t have the three years experience that Lucas had. He is also a very good vocal leader and he has a strong arm. He is actually a more physical runner than Lucas.”
Knoop said for the time being, he won’t have Peppmuller playing both ways.
Senior Kody James (6-1, 175) will be the backup quarterback and will play in the defensive secondary.
The team’s receivers will be seniors Jose Pereyra (5-11, 155) and Danny Ayala (5-9, 175), along with sophomores Oharjee Brown (5-9, 145) and Sean Johnson (5-11, 155). Beltran will also see time at the position, as will senior Ike Nwachie (6-6, 225) at tight end.
On defense, hoping to join Jensen in the linebacking corps are seniors Andrew Cervantes (5-9, 165), Max Reis (5-9, 180), Chris Escobar (5-8, 180), Jose Bandala (5-11, 190), David Distefano (5-9, 145) and juniors Michael Kim (5-8, 175) and Zack Hartman (5-7, 170)
The defensive line consists of Nwachie, who will play end and Ferrat, along with seniors Luke Coblentz (6-2, 200) and juniors George Villa (6-3, 210) and Ermar Cruz (5-9, 220), who will play noseguard.
“Because we are pretty young at linebacker, we are going to have to have the guys on the d-line step up,” Knoop said. “I’ll tell you what, we brought Ermar Cruz up from the JV team and he’s going to be a special, special dude. He’s hard to block and he’s got a motor to him.”
Knoop said he has four players vying for the starting kicking job, with sophomore Jairo Gomez — who could also be the squad’s punter — leading the way.
In his team’s quest to win a third consecutive league title, Knoop said the competition should be stiff.
“I think Arcadia is getting all the press right now,” Knoop said. “But I think that [Crescenta Valley] is going to be pretty good and Muir has some talent. Pasadena should also be improved. I think it’s going to be pretty interesting in league. I think it’s going to be a dogfight every week for everybody.”