LANCASTER — A challenging nonleague schedule has paid off big time for the Burroughs High football team in recent years, as the team's coaches believe a challenging preleague slate prepares the Indians for league competition.
Despite winning just one of 12 contests leading into Pacific League play over the course of the last four seasons, the Indians captured league championships in three of those four years.
Burroughs opened the 2013 campaign Friday evening with another tough nonleague opponent in Paraclete, which is ranked No. 2 in the Mid-Valley Division. The Indians came into the contest with a 10-game nonleague losing streak that dated back to 2009.
Although the Indians started the game well, scoring the first touchdown, the Spirits scored 25 unanswered points in the second quarter and took advantage of Burroughs' mistakes to notch a 45-14 victory at Antelope Valley College.
"I didn't expect us to play like we did today and make the kind of mistakes that we did," said Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop, whose team's last nonleague win came Sept. 17, 2009 against South Torrance, 34-17. "If you would have seen us last week in our scrimmage, we were a completely different team.
"We just didn't seem to battle as hard as we should have. That is something that we have to learn."
It was a defensive highlight that led to the first touchdown by Burroughs against the Spirits (1-1), who lost to Santiago, 21-12, in their season opener last week. A nifty 46-yard punt in the first quarter by Indians' Andres Aguilar pinned the Spirits in at their own 2-yard line. On the first play, a sweep to the right, Burroughs senior lineman Brad Peppmuller rushed in to make a play. The ball squirted lose in the end zone and Peppmuller was able to fall on it for a touchdown.
"When I saw the ball come out I just thought that I had to go get it," Peppmuller said. "When I did get it that was such a good feeling. That's my first touchdown of my high school career."
With the score, and Paraclete struggling on offense, Burroughs enjoyed a 7-0 advantage after the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the Indians, they couldn't maintain the momentum.
Mistakes by the Indians helped the Spirits rattle off 25 unanswered points.
A special teams flub by the Indians punctuated the evening for the visitors. With Burroughs punting from its own 12, Paraclete defender Damon Thompson rushed in on the play unblocked. He was able to tip the punt attempt and then snatch it out of the air and scamper in for a touchdown with 3:57 remaining in the second quarter.
That score helped the Spirits go into halftime with a 25-14 lead.
However, it could have been worse for the Indians if they hadn't scored with just 15 seconds remaining in the first half. That touchdown came on a 1-yard run by senior quarterback Andrew Williams.
"We had some bad problems with our special teams and those guys were just exposed tonight," Knoop said. "We just can't play that badly on special teams. We have to get better at that, along with some other things as well."
Williams was the team's leading rusher, carrying the ball eight times for 56 yards and a touchdown.
He did struggle throwing, however, completing just seven of 21 passes for 62 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
For the Spirits, senior quarterback Brett Nelson had a solid showing, completing 13 of his 19 passes for 239 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
After scoring just before half, Knoop thought he team might be able to make a game of it. But the Indians weren't able to put any points on the board in the second half.
They did get close, as a drive with time running out in the game was stopped at the Paraclete 2-yard line.
"We have some young kids in some key spots; some played well and some played poorly," Knoop said. "But we have to get better fast. We have to evaluate guys who didn't play well and hopefully make some changes.
"We have to get better because when we play Camarillo in two weeks, they're gonna be good."