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High Schools | SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL REPORT

Burbank Teams Finally Find Competitive Edge

October 30, 2003|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

If the high school football programs in Burbank were held to the same standards as the television shows produced there, they would have been canceled a long time ago.

Burbank, Burroughs and Bell-Jeff highs have struggled to keep up with programs in neighboring communities. Some say it's because fewer young families can afford to move into the entertainment-based city. Others blame what has been a lack of continuity in the coaching ranks.

But each program has made noticeable strides this season, accomplishments that probably wouldn't qualify for a marquee on San Fernando Road but have caused the community to take note of its high school football teams again.

The blockbuster came Friday, when Burbank defeated Saugus, 16-14, to end a 51-game losing streak in the Foothill League that spanned nearly 11 years.

The Bulldogs, 5-2 overall and 1-1 in league play under second-year Coach Greg Sobiech, have already accumulated more victories this season than in any since 1992.

At Bell-Jeff, a small Catholic school that attracts most of its students from the North Hollywood and Sun Valley areas, the Guards are off to their best start in the school's 59-year history.

After struggling to field a team only five years ago, Bell-Jeff is 7-0 under fifth-year Coach Rolando Aguirre. The Guards are ranked No. 2 in Southern Section Division XII.

Aguirre said the biggest reason for Bell-Jeff's success is its offensive line, which includes Robert Alarcon (6-3, 290), Brian Alfaro (6-4, 265), Andy Gomez (5-7, 225), Alex Khachatoorian (6-2, 240), David Radoccia (5-10, 225) and tight end Jake Nelson (6-3, 215).

Junior running back Derek Leiphardt has been its biggest beneficiary, rushing for 965 yards in only 38 carries, an average of 25.4 yards, and 13 touchdowns.

Aguirre said his offensive linemen have learned his system well. "They are able to handle any kind of defense that's put across from them," he said.

Burroughs made its debut last week in the Division II poll at No. 10, the second-highest ranking in Coach Keith Knoop's seven seasons at the school.

The Indians (4-3, 1-1) have three shutouts this season and have given up only 17 points combined in victories over Saugus and Crescenta Valley.

Knoop said the current success of the Burbank schools can be linked to the continuity of their current coaching staffs, not the influx of more athletes.

"The players have always been here," Knoop said. "At Burbank High, they've had a different head coach every two or three years. That's the main problem."

Perhaps no longer.

*

After winning more major-division titles than any Southern Section team during the 1960s and 1970s, the South Pasadena football program seemingly disappeared. The Tigers haven't won a league title since 1976, the season after they won their last section title.

That could change this season. South Pasadena is 5-2 and 2-0 in the Rio Hondo League heading into Friday's game at Temple City (5-1-1, 2-0).The Tigers beat Monrovia, the defending league champion, 29-19, last Friday for their first victory over the Wildcats in South Pasadena Coach Ed Smith's nine-year tenure. Last season, Monrovia won, 49-6.

Brandon Salumbides, a senior wide receiver, senses the community has taken notice because of an increase in attendance and the positive comments he hears.

"Slowly, game by game, we're building up support," Salumbides said. "Instead of people saying, 'Don't get killed,' they're saying, 'Good luck,' and following up by saying we have a chance to take league this year."

The Tigers will have to get past Temple City, ranked No. 4 in Division X, and the memories of losing to the Rams, 49-14, last season and 52-0 in 2001.

Quarterback Alex Christ and running back Kevin Tapia, both seniors, and Salumbides are looking to carry much of the load.

"We feel like we have a big opportunity," said Salumbides, the team's leading receiver with 41 catches for 681 yards and five touchdowns. "We're going to go for it."

*

Mission Viejo is still among the teams being considered by Concord De La Salle for a nonleague game next season, though the Diablos are not at the top of the list.

The schools confirmed last month they had been in contact about filling a Week 5 opening, but assistant athletic director Leo Lopez said Tuesday the Spartans are evaluating offers in the order they arrived.

"We had a couple of offers previous to Mission Viejo's," Lopez said. "If that doesn't go through, we'll move on to the next team."

De La Salle extended its national-record winning streak to 145 games Friday against visiting Evangel Christian Academy of Shreveport, La.

Mission Viejo has a 35-game winning streak.

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