Jeff Barrett, the quarterback at Burroughs High, isn't saying anything.
"He doesn't want to do any talking," said Jeff's father, Mario. "He just wants to play."
But, somehow, Barrett's opinions have drifted over to the practice field at Hart where they've been mulled over by Darren Renfro.
"I know they don't think too much of me," said Renfro, the Hart quarterback. "I know Barrett doesn't. That's just what I hear."
Grapevine transmissions aside, Barrett has decided to remain silent in preparation for the Foothill League showdown between Burroughs and Hart on Friday night at Burroughs. Barrett's coaches and teammates also are cautiously avoiding any brash proclamations about the outcome. But it's difficult to get them to talk about anything other than Hart.
Who can blame them? Hart has haunted Burroughs in recent years, replacing it as the dominant team in the league. The teams have the same nickname, but the Hart Indians have had more feathers in their caps lately. Burroughs hasn't won a league title--or beaten Hart--since 1981. Once a league power, Burroughs now finds itself trying to scramble back to supremacy.
And although Burroughs (6-0, 1-0 in league play) is ranked No. 2 in The Valley by The Times, many people consider third-ranked Hart (5-1, 1-0) the favorite.
"Hart won the league championship last year and they beat us," Burroughs Coach Butch McElwee said. "We want to dethrone them."
Burroughs' 20-8 loss to Hart last season has been a particularly bitter pill for McElwee's team to swallow. The coaches and players felt it could have gone the other way.
"They had only one true offensive score on us," said McElwee, who was an assistant coach last season. "They recovered one fumble in the end zone that was really an incomplete pass."
Hart Coach Rick Scott has different recollections.
"We fumbled a few times, too," he said. "I know Andy Iacenda fumbled once going in to score."
For the record, Hart survived three fumbles to win. Burroughs fumbled twice and Hart capitalized on both for touchdowns. On the pivotal play that McElwee referred to, Hart linebacker Jeff Trogan recovered a fumble by Barrett in the end zone for a score.
Suffice to say that Scott was not satisfied with his team's performance and McElwee was not satisfied with the outcome.
"They got the breaks and we didn't," Burroughs tailback Doug Dragomer said. "They didn't impress us. We just walked off like we lost to ourselves. This year, we're going to be way, way more prepared."
Respect, however, hasn't come easily this season for Burroughs. In fact, McElwee believes it hasn't come at all.
"I have a hard time understanding how someone can doubt us when in the last four games we've scored over 150 points and held everybody under 30," McElwee said. "We are possibly the best football team this school has ever had."
Burroughs has indeed made a remarkable turnaround. After finishing last in the league in 1985, Bob Dunivant, who led Burroughs to five league championships in the 1970s, returned as head coach and led the Indians to their first playoff berth in five years. Burroughs was 10-2-1, losing only to Hart in league play and to Temple City, 35-28, in the semifinals of the Northwestern Conference playoffs. Hart defeated Temple City, 40-27, for the conference title the following week.
This season, with Dunivant as offensive coordinator, Burroughs' Barrett-led offense is lighting up the scoreboard and McElwee has molded the defense into one of the stingiest and most tenacious in the Southern Section.
"But everyone is saying we're playing a weak schedule," Dragomer said.
It is a fact that Burroughs' opponents have a combined record of 9-23-1. Nonetheless, the Indians, who have outscored the opposition, 232-72, are averaging 323 yards in total offense. The defense has been just as good, allowing 130 yards a game.
"They were, at one time, the dominating team in the Foothill League and it seems that we've taken that role away from them," said Scott, who is in his fourth year at Hart. "Once that slips away, it's hard to regain it."
Hart, however, is hardly an overwhelming favorite. The Hart offense, which averages 350 yards a game, is second only to Crespi in the Valley area in total yardage. But the defense is dead last among area Southern Section teams, surrendering an average of 335 yards a game.
"There's a complexity to our defense that seems to take a little time to work," Scott said. "We have to jell together."
Hart's offense, however, has been explosive. Renfro is the leading passer in the Valley area with 1,403 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Barrett is second to Renfro with 1,065 yards passing but has attempted 69 fewer passes than the Hart quarterback. Burroughs has been using its other weapons. Dragomer has scored 14 touchdowns and fullback Wes Bender has rushed for 324 yards.
Still, Renfro's own offensive output is not his main concern. "I think we're the underdogs," he said, "because of their defense."
That isn't the way Dunivant hears it.
"I think Hart is underestimating our defense," Dunivant said. "Those are the comments I hear through the grapevine."