Burbank High football Coach Hector Valencia doesn't have a great deal of fond memories about the 2011 season.
Last season, the Bulldogs went 4-6 and had a 3-4 showing in the Pacific League, finishing sixth and missing the postseason. It was the first time in six years the program failed to make the playoffs.
In addition, there were some discipline problems within the ranks, and three players were suspended for a game for their roles in a brawl that took place in a league game against Hoover.
"We really struggled last year and we killed ourselves with our discipline problems," Valencia said. "But we are a lot more unified this season and I don't expect us to have the kinds of problems we had last year. It's just going to be a much more pleasant experience coaching these kids this year."
Valencia is hoping the 2011 season was just an anomaly, as the Bulldogs placed third in league in 2010 and shared the league crown with rival Burroughs in 2009.
The Bulldogs will get a chance to get back on track when they open their season at 7 p.m. Thursday in a nonleague contest against visiting Chatsworth. The game will be the first varsity contest played at Memorial Field since the venue was refurbished.
Burbank will field a team with a contingent that has been with the program for a number of years.
"Last year, we had five guys who were four-year players, meaning they spent four years in the program on some level," Valencia said. "This year I think we have 17. We never get really big numbers for players on varsity. So, to have that many guys out of our seniors who have been with the program for four years…they know what to expect, they know our system and they have the experience. They know what they have to do.
"It's nice to have that many guys around that I have coached since they were freshmen."
On offense, Valencia is pleased with the group of running backs his team will feature this season. Those running backs will include junior Joseph Pendelton (5 feet 8, 205 pounds), sophomore James Williams (5-10, 180), junior Caro Martin (5-9, 190) and senior Teddy Arlington (5-8, 180), who earned all-league accolades last season.
Williams gained more than 2,000 yards on the Bulldogs' freshmen team in 2011.
Returning to take over the quarterbacking duties is senior Zak Tomlinson, who was the No. 2 signal-caller year ago, starting one game. Valencia said Tomlinson knows the offense and the coach is confident the senior will perform well.
"He's been on the varsity since he was a sophomore, so he knows what to do out there," Valencia said. "We expect him to step up and lead the team. We're also confident that he can manage the group of running backs that we're going to have.
"We will have five running backs that we will feel very comfortable giving the ball in any given situation. We have some backs with power, some with finesse and other guys who are just athletic."
Unfortunately for Burbank, its best wide receiver, senior Francis Nicks (6-0, 175) will be ineligible for the first two games of the season because of grades. Also catching the ball will be senior Damien Lopez (5-9, 154), senior Dylan Johnson (5-10, 151) and junior Sebastian Santoro (6-1, 175).
Returning to anchor the offensive line will be senior Jacob Jimenez (5-11, 280). Other linemen will be senior Bryan Perez (5-9, 195) and junior Michael Wong (6-2, 210).
"Pretty much the rest of the offensive line will be filled with a lot of players who were on the JV team that went 9-1 last year," Valencia said. "We are young, but we have a very athletic line. They're not very big, but they can move around pretty well."
The defensive line will feature returning all-league and All-Area standout Steven Kim (5-11, 265), a senior who has been an all-league mainstay for two seasons. Also on the defensive line will be senior Jesse Acebal (6-0, 265) and senior Kyle Hunter (6-1, 160).
Burbank's linebackers should be led by junior Aaron Jimenez (5-11, 205) and Lopez. Junior Andy Park (5-10, 170) will also be a linebacker.
Returning senior Joe Argenzian (6-0, 175) will lead the defensive backs.
Valencia said he is still searching for someone to handle the punting and kicking duties.
Missing the playoffs last season, Valencia hopes he has enough talent to get the program back in the postseason.
"[Crescenta Valley] has had very successful programs at the lower levels the past few years," he said. "But Arcadia should be solid and Muir and Pasadena will have some good players. And don't forget about Burroughs. But we feel like we have a good group and they have really bought into to what we've been trying to teach them."