Cleveland High running back Sean Burwell got the good news Friday from his grandmother. Cavaliers Coach Steve Landress found out as his team was boarding the bus to Taft.
In a surprise decision, a City Section appeals panel ruled Burwell eligible to play this season. Cleveland finally would get to play its heralded transfer from Chaminade. But that was about the only good news the Cavaliers got all day.
Burwell played, but only sparingly, and Cleveland got hammered by Taft, 27-6, in a nonleague game.
Taft used a trio of lesser-known running backs as it racked up 277 yards in total offense. Defensively, the Toreadors intercepted three passes, collected three sacks and continually stopped the run. They achieved all this by playing and hitting harder than the bigger Cavaliers.
"If we look pretty, we lose," Taft Coach Tom Stevenson said. "We came out and played physical. I like to look ugly and win."
The Toreador offense was as balanced as it was ugly. Marc Harris carried 20 times for 70 yards, Kelvin Byrd carried 10 times for 60 yards and Terrance Britt carried 13 times for 60 yards. Byrd and Britt each had touchdown runs and quarterback Jon Thompson scored twice on short runs.
Burwell, for his part, looked good. He ran the opening kickoff back 20 yards, carried seven times for 55 yards and scored the Cavaliers' only touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The 6-0, 178-pound junior, the Valley's fourth-leading rusher last year, had expected to sit out this season after exhausting a number of petitions for eligibility.
Burwell's teammates didn't fare as well. Quarterback Jamie Grossman completed 8 of 19 for 123 yards but had one interception. The remainder of the team contributed minus-15 yards against Taft. And the Cavaliers were penalized seven times for 48 yards.
Both schools were coming off lopsided losses. Taft (2-1) moves on with renewed confidence, Stevenson said. Cleveland (1-2) is left to pick up the pieces and look forward to more of Burwell.
"He'll play more next week," Landress said. "We're not giving up. We're going to click one of these games."