In all reality, the playoffs started for the Burbank High football team weeks ago.
It’s a point Bulldogs Coach Hector Valencia has been drilling into his players since they lost their second Pacific League game to Muir, as the coach believed his team would have to win out to have hopes for the playoffs.
In turns out he was quite right, and for their efforts, the Bulldogs were rewarded with a CIF Southern Section Southeast Division home game on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. when they open up against visiting Mayfair.
“The way it was panning out … we pretty much thought we would get Mayfair,” Bulldogs Coach Hector Valencia said. “We’re lucky we got a home game. On the road or at home, the main thing is we’re just happy to be in the playoffs.”
Burbank will be joined in the playoffs by archrival Burroughs, which won’t have the luxury of a home game as it will take a trip to face third-seeded La Serna.
The Bulldogs (8-2) received the second-place spot from the Pacific League after tying for second with Burroughs and Crescenta Valley by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Indians and a coin flip with the Falcons.
Hence, Valencia was correct about winning out, as a loss on Friday to Burroughs would have left the Bulldogs at 7-3 and 4-3 in league. Crescenta Valley was forced to apply for an at-large bid, but lost out to West Covina for the division’s only at-large spot via a 3-1 score in the CIF office’s formula. Going by the same criteria, in which West Covina (5-5) got one point for playing in a stronger league and two points for strength of schedule (the combined record of its opponents) and the Falcons got one point for a better record, the exact same score would have seen West Covina beat out Burbank for the at-large spot.
But Burbank didn’t let it come to that, running away with a 47-21 win in the Big Game over Burroughs.
“I think the main this was focusing on us,” said Valencia of his team ending the regular season on a three-game winning streak. “We started executing thing a lot better since those two losses [to Crescenta Valley and Muir]; it woke us up.”
Now it will face a Mayfair squad that finished second in the Suburban League and is 5-5.
“They’re a running team, I think we do well against running teams,” said Valencia, whose team, should it win, would advance to the quarterfinals to play No. 2 seed Diamond Ranch (9-1) or Santa Fe (6-4). “They’re big and strong, they’re definitely gonna try pounding it.
“Anytime you play anyone in the playoffs, they’re a great team. We’re ready to compete; we’re just gonna bring our best.”
Burroughs (6-4) will see one of the division’s best in La Serna (8-2), the Del Rio League champion.
La Serna has won five straight games, all of them by a margin of 21 points or greater. The teams only losses came against Los Osos, 24-20, and Norco, 37-21.
Although his team will face a Lancers team that has suffered just two losses, Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop thinks his team can play with La Serna.
“La Serna is a good team and they are good at what they do,” Knoop said. “But they run a base defense, and they don’t bring a lot of guys on the blitz. They are a little smaller too, so I think that’s to our advantage as well. They have small running backs, but they do have some speed. And they are also very well coached.
“So looking at the draw, I think this is a lot better opponent than playing someone like Diamond Ranch in the first round. I think [La Serna] matches up well with us, so I think that we got the right match.”
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to play Downey (6-4) or Diamond Bar (5-5).