ARCADIA — Pacific League opening games have brought out the best in the Burbank High football team in recent years. A big effort from James Williams made things more pleasurable for the Bulldogs on Friday night.
On the ground or in the air, Williams took matters into his own hands after being benched for Burbank's first offensive possession.
Williams, a junior, scored four first-half touchdown, including three rushing scores, to power visiting Burbank to a convincing 51-14 win against host Arcadia in the league opener for both teams.
It was Burbank’s sixth league-opening win in a row.
Williams sat out the first series after he showed up late prior to the team bus leaving for Arcadia. He made up for the transgression by taking it out on the Apaches.
“Some things happened before, so I just wanted to get back out there and do what I could to help my team,” said Williams, who finished with 124 yards rushing in nine carries and caught four passes for 75 yards. “I was able to get into a groove once I got back on to the field.
“We were able to get off to a good start and it's good to be 1-0 in league.”
Burbank improved to 4-0 and hasn’t lost an opener since 2007. The Bulldogs, ranked ninth in the latest CIF Southern Section Southeast Division poll, began the season with nonleague victories against Bell Gardens, Canoga Park and Inglewood before facing Arcadia (2-2).
Burbank also got a pair of touchdown catches from wide receiver Oharjee Brown. Burbank quarterback Ryan Meredith passed for four touchdowns.
Burbank fifth-year Coach Hector Valencia said it was important for the Bulldogs to find its rhythm early in the game.
“We are excited right now about the way we are playing,” Valencia said. “We have a great attitude about different things and we are getting a lot of contributions from different people on both side of the ball.
“With James, we benched him for that first series as a way of teaching him a lesson. There are consequences for your actions. He made up for it by having a big game.”
The Bulldogs scored on all six of their first-half possessions.
Burbank grabbed a quick 8-0 lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Meredith to Brown with 9:04 left. Williams then scored on a one-yard run to extend the advantage to 16-0 with 5:15 left.
Following an interception by Burbank’s Kalani Williams near the Arcadia 35-yard line, Williams then scored on a 27-yard run to make it 23-0 with 4:10 left in the first quarter.
Arcadia cut the deficit to 23-7 when quarterback Joey Hamon tossed a two-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Brown with 7:55 left in the second quarter.
Williams then caught a 14-yard pass from Meredith to make it 30-7 with 5:45 to go in the first half. Williams then scored on a 53-yard run to raise the lead to 37-7 with 51 seconds left.
The Bulldogs made it 44-7 when Meredith lobbed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Brown with eight seconds left in the half.
Arcadia and Burbank swapped third-quarter touchdowns to close out the scoring. The Apaches pulled to within 44-14 on a three-yard run by Nico Cantos with 3:31 remaining.
Martin Caro and Nicolas Cantong each had one interception for the Bulldogs, who forced three turnovers and recorded seven sacks.
Meredith, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 178 yards, tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Housholder with 1:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Burbank will next meet visiting Pasadena in a league game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Field.
“I'm very comfortable with this team,” said Williams, a two-year varsity starter. “We've come a long way and we want to keep it going.”