Burroughs High football hopes to move forward, rebound

While they have their sights set on the future, the Burroughs High football coaches and players can't forget about the past.

What the Indians want to remember is the feeling they experienced last year after a disappointing 2012 season. The disappointments started with a 4-6 showing on the year and culminated with a 4-3 record in the Pacific League, tying Burroughs for third place and missing out on a spot in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs.

That was not what the program has been accustomed to in recent years, having captured Pacific League championships in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

"Obviously, we weren't happy with what we did last year," senior wide receiver/linebacker George Al Ajijian said. "We want to use that as a reference point of where we don't want to be and what we don't want to do. We just have to go into this season and think of it as a new year and not let what happened last year happen again."

Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop, who is in his 17th season at the helm, said not making the playoffs last season is something he and his players are determined not to repeat this year.

"I'll put it in perspective for you how it was for us last year," said Knoop, who has been involved in the Indians program for 21 years. "In 2006, we started this thing called the Hammer Award. I started that award because we hadn't won a league championship in 25 years. And this year I decided to start another one because I told them last year it felt like another 25 years.

"But I expect great things from this team this season. We have 33 seniors who went through that last season and experienced it as a team and they don't want that. We are going to go for the gold ring and that means a league championship."

The Indians will get the chance to begin to right last year's wrongs when they open the season Friday with a 7 p.m. nonleague game at Paraclete. The Spirits (12-2 last season) are ranked No. 2 in the Mid-Valley Division and are coached by Norm Dahlia, a former Burbank High assistant.

Paraclete lost its season opener last week against Serrano, 21-12.

The Indians will square off against the same three nonleague opponents they faced last season — which also includes North Hollywood and Camarillo — as Burroughs came out on the losing end of all three games. The Indians have lost 10 straight nonleague games dating back to 2009.

Although Burroughs enters the season with a few key players injured or banged up, Knoop said he likes what he sees with the current group.

"It is a really good group and they've been working hard," Knoop said. "We haven't won a preseason game in our last 10, so this game against Paraclete is very important to us. Not only is Norm Dahilia one of my former coaches, but they knocked out both our quarterbacks last season and that helped dismantle our season a little.

"They are a good program and a top-ranked team and we want to beat them."

One of those quarterbacks who battled injuries last season is senior Andrew Williams, who will get the starting nod. Last season, Williams completed 60 of 90 for 699 yards passing in five games. He also had 37 carries for 171 yards.

"I just have to go into the season not thinking that I had the injuries last season," Williams said. "I really can't go into a game afraid that I might get injured again. I just have to go in with no fear at all and do all I can for the team."

With its share of solid running backs over the years, Knoop said this year's squad should also have a fine group of backs that will include junior Javier Pineda, a transfer from Schurr who was the program's freshman most valuable player before having to sit out last season, junior Michael Ospina, sophomore Hunter Guerin and senior Drew Tobin

The wide receivers will be 6-foot-5 Conor Joyce, Al Ajijian and senior Jacob Nutty and seniors Steven Santeliz and Cameron Rodriguez will be the tight ends. Although Knoop said those players are the first group of receivers, he also has a group of young pass-catchers that includes sophomore Eric Hernandez, junior Anthony Archuleta, junior Max Chamberlain and junior Aidan Anding, whose brother, Zander, holds the Burroughs all-time rushing record.

"With the receivers that we have, we want to open it up, that's our goal," Knoop said. "But we won't be afraid to run the ball when we have to because we have a good group back there."

As has been Burroughs' forte over the years, the team should have a solid offensive line, although one key player is academically ineligible and another is injured to start the season. Manning the line with be Rodriguez, senior Jacob Pentland, who is ineligible, senior Oscar Quintana, senior Jacob Lopez, junior Anthony Olea and junior Andrew Mills.

Most of those linemen will also play on the defensive side. Playing at end will be Santeliz and senior Richard Marcuse.

Players who will see time at linebacker will be senior Dillon Meza, who is injured, Ospina, sophomore Connor Garden, Rodriguez, senior Francisco Garcia and senior Gildardo Chavez.

"We have some very talented guys on the defense," Knoop said. "These guys are hungry and they are ready to get at it."

At defensive back will be Al Ajijian, Pineda, Guerin, senior Davion Barker, Anding, senior Eric Gordon, a transfer from Birmingham, and senior Sean Johnson, who is injured and also plays wide receiver.

Doing the punting for the Indians will be junior Andres Aguilar. As far as the kicking duties go, Knoop said there is a fierce competition between Aguilar and senior Jairo Gomez.

"The two are cousins," Knoop said. "They are in a real battle. Andres can kick a 60-yard field goal with no pressure in practice, but Jairo kicked a 53-yarder and we had conditioning on the line, and he fell down and still made it. They kick so hard they broke the net on the scoreboard."

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