James Williams getting his opportunity and running with it

James Williams has seen limited playing time this season for the Burbank High football team. And the junior running back has contributed to his prolonged stints on the bench.

Williams is determined to make the most of every touch he gets on offense. As a result, the swift-footed ballcarrier has racked up some big performances in the first halves of games this season for the Bulldogs, which has usually led to huge leads by Burbank after the first two quarters. In an effort not to run up the score, Burbank Coach Hector Valencia has pulled his star for almost the entire second half during the majority of the teams' games.

"James is the best player in our league," Valencia said. "He is the best player who doesn't really get to play that much at all."

Admitting that his own success at running the ball is what has prompted his abbreviated playing time, Williams knows he shouldn't be in the game padding his stats late if his Bulldogs have a sizable lead.

"I actually don't get mad because we have to respect the other team and we just don't want to just keep running at them," Williams said. "I kinda get used to it and I really can't worry too much about that. Sometimes even before games my coach will tell me I have to do what I do in the first half because I probably won't be playing a lot in the second.

"What is good is that we have three other running backs who could go over 100 yards in any game, so that helps."

Williams will probably not be sitting much for the Bulldogs' contest this week. In fact, he is likely to receive his share of carries when Burbank takes on Burroughs at 7 p.m. Friday in the 65th Big Game rivalry clash at Memorial Field.

Although Williams has had limited carries this season, he has definitely made the most of the opportunities he has been given. He has only reached 20 carries once this season and he was able to turn that effort into a school-record 278 yards rushing in a Pacific League game against Crescenta Valley.

With the exception of 17 carries against league-leading Muir, Williams hasn't run the ball more than 10 times in Burbank's other seven games. Those efforts include eight carries against Hoover (117 yards), nine against Arcadia (129), nine against Glendale (142) 10 against Pasadena (110) and 10 against Inglewood (96).

"Just think of what would happen if I gave him the ball 25 times a game?" Valencia said. "He would be setting more school records and he would be racking so much more yardage. He is capable of doing a lot more than we have had him do.

"But James realizes that he just can't be in there running the ball when we're blowing out another team. He understands why he's on the bench and he accepts that. He knows it's what's best for the team."

Williams came off a sophomore season in which he showed he was a force on offense for the Bulldogs. Along with earning the Pacific League Offensive Player of the Year award, he was also an All-Area first-team selection. In the 2012, Williams had 133 carries for 1,443 yards (10.8 yards a carry) and 17 touchdowns.

His carries are definitely down his season. But Williams is still enjoying a stellar campaign. As a running back, he has 102 carries for 1,077 yards (10.6 yards a carry) and 18 touchdowns. In addition, Williams has caught 18 passes for 427 yards (23.7 yards a catch) and five touchdowns, has 1,799 all-purpose yards and has scored 152 points.

"When I know I'm not going to probably play a lot in a certain game, I try and score a touchdown on every run," Williams said. "I just try and make the most out of every time I touch the ball. I kinda have to do that, because I know I might not get too many opportunities to do that."

What has also contributed to less carries for Williams is that Burbank has thrown the ball more this season with junior quarterback Ryan Meredith. But that has opened up more opportunities for Williams as a receiver.

"He is just a very versatile player," Valencia said. "Along with his God-given talents as a running back, he has great hands as a receiver as well and he is so good as a return man on kickoffs. When he does finally leave us, James is going to have his share of records here at Burbank High."

Williams is one of the reasons why Burbank has been able to enjoy a successful season. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division, are 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pacific League. Burbank will need to beat Burroughs to stay in the running for an automatic playoff berth from the league.

"He is just fun to watch," Meredith said of Williams. "I have been playing with him since the eighth grade and some things that he does still amaze me. Some of his runs are pretty incredible. He is a guy who has a lot of talent, but he also puts in a lot of hard work."

Williams has been putting in the work to prepare for Friday's cross-town rivalry showdown with the Indians. He is spending this week completely focused on beating Burroughs.

"I have been watching film on them every day; every night I look at film before I go to bed," he said. "I have been studying them so I know as much as I can about them. This week I am going to be so careful and make sure I am healthy for the game. I can't wait. I'll be ready for sure."

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