It was an unusual experience attending Friday's annual "Big Game" football contest between cross-town rivals Burroughs High and Burbank.
This was the first time the game between the two city teams was played outside of Burbank. Although the venue at Arcadia High is nice enough, it just didn't have the atmosphere of Memorial Field.
Because of ongoing renovations to the stadium on the campus at Burroughs High, the Indians and Bulldogs had to find another place in which to stage their annual clash. Because Arcadia was on the road Friday taking on Crescenta Valley at Glendale's Moyse Field, the field was available.
There was the usual celebration and ceremony that is often associated with the 'Big Game." Bands played, the homecoming court was honored, dignitaries and alumni were in attendance and the game was played, with Burroughs defeating Burbank, 34-7.
But something was missing. The usual magic and unique enchantment that surrounds the evening was just not there in the wake of the events place outside Memorial Field.
Fortunately for Burroughs and Burbank, they are scheduled to be in their brand new stadium for the 2012 "Big Game." In fact, the artificial turf was installed at Memorial Field this week. It's nice to see touches of green taking shape on a field that has suffered its share of brown blight over the years.
The construction of the new stadium has been taxing on the Indians and Bulldogs this season — more so for Burroughs. Both teams have had to play all of their games on the road this year. That's a daunting task for any squad; not having the opportunity to compete in front of its home crowd for the entire season.
At least Burbank has been able to practice on its home field on campus. Burroughs didn't have that luxury. Instead, the Indians had to be bussed daily to Luther Burbank Middle School, where they held their practices.
Facing those obstacles, Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop and his staff have done a remarkable job just keeping the Indians in the running for a Pacific League championship. Major distractions like these can often be the death knell for a squad. But the Indians have persevered, and even thrived, with no home field this season.
Under Knoop, Burroughs has been able to enjoy a great deal of success since joining the Pacific League in 2006. Friday's win clinched a share of the third straight title for the Indians. The program also captured an outright championship in its first year in the league.
Knoop is only the second coach in program history to win three straight league crowns. The legendary Bob Dunivant, whose teams notched seven championships, won four consecutive Foothill League titles from 1977-80.
Burroughs' road to this year's championship was a challenging one. For the second straight season, the Indians began the campaign with three straight losses to former Foothill League foes, Saugus, Canyon Country Canyon and Hart.
Although the Indians suffered losses and even took their lumps against tough teams that yielded a 0-3 record to start the year, they gained valuable experience and went up against some of the most talented athletes they would face all season. That, in turn, prepared them for Pacific League competition.
Congratulations to the Burroughs squad, which will get the opportunity to continue its season next week when the CIF Southern Section playoffs begin. And we all look forward to next year's "Big Game," when it returns to the only place it belongs — Memorial Field.