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Friends Meet Again as Foes : Coaches dos Remedios of Burroughs and Willison of Burbank Both Were Bulldogs Once, but Tonight Will Be on Opposite Sides of the Cross-town Rivalry

November 15, 1996|DANA HADDAD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BURBANK — Tonight's regular-season finale between cross-town rivals Burbank and Burroughs High is practically meaningless as far as the Foothill League standings are concerned.

Burroughs (7-2, 3-1 in league) has clinched a playoff berth and can finish no worse than third place. Burbank (2-7, 0-4) can do no better than tie for last.

But for Burbank Coach Gary Willison and Burroughs Coach Robert dos Remedios, old friends and rivals who oppose each other for the first time as head coaches, it means everything.

Buddies as Burbank linemen who graduated in 1983 and went on to play major-college football, Willison and dos Remedios were nearly inseparable from the day they met at Washington elementary school.

They pushed each other and in the process carried on a one-on-one rivalry typical of siblings.

"We met in fifth grade and we were best friends until the end of high school," dos Remedios said.

Said Willison: "Since high school, if the guy needed anything, I'd be there in a flying minute. But he and I would do anything, anything to beat each other."

Dos Remedios is 2-0 against Burbank since taking the reins at Burroughs, but he would probably trade in those games for a victory tonight against Willison, Burbank's first-year coach.

Willison explained why.

"Up until this point, I haven't lost to him in anything--except for a passing league game last summer," said Willison, whose Bulldogs are heavy underdogs.

Dos Remedios begs to differ.

"I never lost a kick-ball game and I won all the [grade-school] contests," he said. "I was the strongest player to ever go through Burbank."

Oooh. That last part stings, considering how much time Willison and dos Remedios spent in the weight room.

"I tell you, he was solid," Willison said. "His legs were like 34 inches each. He could squat a house and I could bench a house. Me and him, we killed people."

In their three seasons at Burbank, Willison, who was 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds, and dos Remedios (6-3, 245) protected the quarterback and opened a lot holes for running backs. Both bench pressed more than 300 pounds.

Willison went on to USC, where he was a part-time starter on the defensive line as a freshman and sophomore until he had ankle problems.

Dos Remedios, after two seasons at Glendale College, started at center for California as a junior and senior. But he and Willison never squared off in college.

Willison said dos Remedios wasn't interested in football before the two met. But Willison and his football-playing brothers, Terry, Doyle and Jim, soon changed that.

In junior high, they were too big to play tackle football against kids their age, so they played flag football. Willison played quarterback, dos Remedios wide receiver.

"We both wanted to play the glory positions, but I couldn't throw and he couldn't catch," Willison said.

After that, both got serious.

By the spring semester of their ninth-grade year, they were lifting in the Burbank weight room, and running and practicing agility drills at the elementary school.

"We were the strongest guys in school and we were as competitive as can be against each other," Willison said. "We trained like demons. We over-trained. He was a big part of my success, because of his drive. But at the same time it was fun.

"We were almost like brothers. We spent every hour of the day together. We went fishing all the time. Even when I run into him now, it was like running into my brother, yet we've never maintained an everyday friendship since high school."

Willison and dos Remedios fell out of touch until two years ago, when dos Remedios was hired at Burroughs and Willison started as an assistant coach, serving one year at Saugus and one at Canyon.

Willison considered joining the Burroughs staff, but dos Remedios encouraged him to apply at Burbank last winter following the resignation of John Hazelton.

"I recommended him and I spoke to some people [at Burbank], and I was in contact with him throughout the whole hiring process," dos Remedios said. "I figured he'd have a chance of getting it, because I think they wanted a good person to clean up the program."

Willison and dos Remedios are approaching tonight's game with more practical goals. Willison will try to end Burbank's four-game losing streak. Dos Remedios hopes a lopsided victory will bring Burroughs a high playoff seeding.

But make no mistake, the rivalry is rekindled.

"I'm looking forward to winning, because he's made some promises to do some things if he loses," dos Remedios said. "I'm going to make him pay up."

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