There is no way to disguise it, hide it or fool anybody about it. It’s like the 600-pound elephant in the room, everyone knows it’s there.
Although the Burroughs High football team has no pachyderm on its roster, its impossible-to-miss entity comes in the form of a 6-foot, 185-pound senior running back Zander Anding.
Anding has put together the finest season by a running back in Indians’ program history, breaking records, racking up big yardage and helping carry Burroughs to a share of the Pacific League championship, its third straight.
So, as the Indians venture into the waters of the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, Coach Keith Knoop expects teams to know about and try to come up with a way of stopping Anding.
“All we can do is try and rely on our size up front and our kids who are pretty good at blocking people,” Knoop said. “We figure that teams are going to run a base defense at us. Everybody has tried everything to try and stop Zander. There is nothing we haven’t seen or nothing we don’t know how to block against. Whatever they give us we’ll find a way to attack it.”
Burroughs, which earned the No. 3 seed in the division, and Anding will get a chance to put their skills to work when they take on Los Altos at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a first-round game at Glendale High’s Moyse Field.
The Indians, who earned a home game, have to play on the road because their home venue of Memorial Field is still being renovated. Because of the ongoing construction, the Indians have played all of their games on the road this season.
Anding has provided the cornerstone for the Burroughs offense this season. His worth was on full display Friday at the annual “Big Game” rivalry contest against Burbank. Anding came out at quarterback in a wildcat offense, carrying the ball 29 times for 349 yards and four touchdowns.
“What was even more amazing is that he called all the cadences and he called all the plays in that game,” Knoop said. “It was amazing and he did a very good job for us.”
Anding has broken numerous Burroughs records this season, including most yardage in a game (393) and most yardage in a season (2,453) and is closing in on the career rushing record. He also has 29 total touchdowns.
Anding has been the beneficiary of a talented offensive line that has been able to pave the way for some big performances. Linemen Gus Ferrat, Forest Stevens, Daniel Marbach, Paul Martinez and Thomas Liro have blocked for the running back.
Getting the ball to Anding this season has been a pair senior quarterbacks: Eli Peppmuller and Brad Hunt. Both signal-callers have gotten their share of playing time and their opportunity to lead the team. However, Knoop said neither has been able to distinguish himself from the other.
“I’m trying to find which guy wants to take it and lead it,” Knoop said. “We want someone who’s not going to be out there causing procedures or fumbling balls or over or under throwing receivers who are wide open. We have to find somebody who’s going to go out and be our quarterback. We can’t run the wildcat all the time.”
Burroughs (6-4), which garnered the No. 1 seed from the Pacific League after sharing the title with Arcadia, will take on a Los Altos (7-3) squad that placed fourth in the competitive Hacienda League. All three of the Conquerors’ losses this season have come in league: a 42-24 setback against West Covina, a 35-28 loss to Bonita and a 27-14 defeat at the hands of Diamond Ranch.
Los Altos earned nonleague wins against El Rancho, Bellflower, Hacienda Heights Wilson and Ayala.
Knoop said the Conquerors possess a balanced offense and can run and pass the ball with efficiency.
“They play in a very tough league, so we know that they are used to battling,” he said. “They have a couple of good running backs and they have one really good receiver. In some aspects, they look a lot like us on defense.”
Leading the running game is Justin Fa’aola, a 6-0, 240-pound bruising running back who has carried the ball 167 times for 1,181 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Senior Scott Tibbs (5-10, 185), who has 122 carries for 481 yards and eight touchdowns, also comes out of the backfield.
The team’s quarterback is senior Shane Virnala, who has completed 101 of 168 passes for 1,424 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
“They can do a lot of different things, so we have to be ready,” Knoop said.
Knoop is hoping his defense can continue to step up and play as well as it did Friday against Burbank, when it limited the Bulldogs to 61 net yards rushing and 170 yards of total offense.
Knoop and the Indians have been postseason mainstays since Burroughs and Burbank jumped from the Foothill League to the Pacific League in 2006. This is the sixth straight year the Indians have qualified for the playoffs.
Although it has been successful making the playoffs, winning a postseason game has been another story for the Indians. Last season, Burroughs defeated El Rancho, 41-21, to earn its first playoff victory in 23 years.