PASADENA — With one loss each in the Pacific League heading into Friday's game, the coaches at Burbank High and Pasadena both realized that their respective squads could not afford another defeat if they wanted to remain in contention for a league championship.
If Pasadena was to keep its title hopes alive it would have to do it without some of its key players, namely its starting center and starting running back.
The losses didn't seem to affect Pasadena much in the early going, as it jumped out to an early lead and took advantage of Burbank mistakes to earn a 27-21 home victory.
The win keeps Pasadena (4-3, 3-1 in league) a game behind league-leading Burroughs (4-3, 4-0), which remains the lone undefeated team in league. The Bulldogs are tied with Arcadia (5-2, 3-1) for second place.
"We told our kids that we control our own destiny," Pasadena Coach Randy Horton said. "Our goal is to win the Pacific League this year and this win brings a step closer to achieving that goal. We just have to go and take care of business our last three games."
With a young squad this season, Burbank Coach Hector Valencia and his staff have been trying to cut down on the mistakes that many inexperienced teams make. Unfortunately for the visiting Bulldogs (3-4, 2-2), they proved Friday that they still have some things to work on in that respect.
Burbank had a long run that got to the Pasadena one-yard line called back in the second quarter because of a penalty. On the same drive, a touchdown run by Herman Castro was called back on another penalty.
"We just can't make those kinds of mistakes at those crucial points in the game," Valencia said. "It was the mistakes that killed us tonight. I know we are young, but we have to grow up and start getting over making mistakes like that. We just gave [Pasadena] so many opportunities.
Pasadena chose to pepper the Burbank defense with a passing barrage courtesy of junior quarterback Brandon Cox. Cox riddled the opposing secondary with a glut of bubble screens and slant passes.
"With the players we had missing, we were kind of nervous about that," Cox said. "Our game plan was to get the ball in our best receivers' hands and let them go with it."
Cox finished the night 17 of 25 passing for 246 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. Receiver Marcus Green caught seven balls for 132 yards and a score.
The teams played to a 7-7 stalemate in the first quarter before both the Pasadena and Burbank defenses blanked one another for almost the entire second quarter. However, with just nine seconds left in the first half, Cox hooked up with Keith Law on a four-yard scoring strike and Pasadena went into the locker room with a 13-7 lead.
Pasadena opened the second half with a quick score, finding pay dirt at the 7:22 mark on a one-yard keeper by Cox.
The hosts then increased their lead to 27-7 with 1:44 left in the third on a 37-yard scoring pass from Cox to Riian Simpson.
Burbank made it interesting when quarterback Austin Mowett connected with Teddy Arlington on a 30-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 27-14 in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Burbank successfully executed an on-side kick. However, it couldn't cash in on the opportunity.
Burbank rallied to within six points with 16 seconds left in the game when Mowett found Mitch Camacho on a 10-yard strike. Burbank tried another on-side kick, but this time it was recovered by Pasadena.
Mowett completed 20 of 30 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Castro rushed 11 times for 102 yards and a touchdown.