FOOTBALL: Tremendous second-half comeback provides Burbank with historic win

Bulldogs beat Highlands for first time in 35 years with 43-point rally

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit: kjtoso.photoreflect.com

Highlands HS vs Burbank HS

Highlands HS vs Burbank HSHighlands HS vs Burbank HS

It wasn’t just what Burbank accomplished Thursday at the SAISD Sports Complex that gave the game a historic bent. It also was the magnitude of the Bulldogs’ comeback.

Burbank (2-3, 1-0) rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to claim its first win over Highlands since 1978.    The Bulldogs triumphed 43-21 in the District 28-4A opener for both teams.

“We needed to fix what we were making mistakes on,” Burbank senior quarterback Jeremy Sanchez said of the second half. “We came out with a better mindset. We did what we needed to do out there.”

Highlands (2-3, 0-1), which has a 21-2 record in the series, limited the Bulldogs to 80 total yards and no points in the first half. The Owls compiled a 21-0 lead and scored on four of six possessions before halftime.

However, Highlands had already lost its junior quarterback Jordan DeLuna for the evening. DeLuna, who had thrown for 787 yards in the Owls’ first four games, was injured on a sack by Sanchez early in the second quarter. He apparently incurred a knee strain.

Highlands’ Henry Rodriguez stripped the ball on Burbank’s first second-half possession and recovered the fumble. It was the Bulldogs’ third turnover, but the Owls were unable to capitalze. In fact, Highlands didn’t score after halftime for the second-consecutive week.

Burbank embarked on its comeback when senior receiver Marcos Luna taking inside handoff on a reverse and dashed 50 yards for a touchdown, Luna had been stopped on a reverse to the right side on the previous play, but Highlands was called for a personal foul that kept the drive alive.

With 7:56 left in the third quarter, Burbank trailed 21-6. Things began to spiral downward for Highlands shortly thereafter, largely due to problems on its center exchanges.

The Bulldogs’ Gusme brothers hastened the downfall.

Senior linebacker Damien Gusme recovered a fumble on the Owls 37. It was the first of two turnovers for Highlands, with 4:12 left in the third quarter.

Although Highlands’ defense stopped Burbank at the Owls 14 with 35 seconds left in the quarter, the Bulldogs were moments away from making their next break. Nine seconds into the final period, Devin Gusme recovered a bad snap, catching the ball on a bounce and running four yards to the end zone.

Sanchez passed to Damien Gusme for the two-point conversion, outh of the swinging gate formation which the Owls employed earlier, slashing Highlands’ lead to 21-14.

“They knew this was a good football team we were going to play against,” said second-year Burbank coach Mark Perez, a Highlands graduate. “They rose to the challenge. These are some good men.”

In one minute and 22 seconds, Burbank was in the end zone again. Senior defensive lineman Nathan Villalobos picked off a pass in the right flat and ran 10 yards for the tying score.

Highlands’ Sabian Santos, who had a first-half interception, returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards. But on the Owls’ first play from scrimmage, Sanchez recovered another errant snap from his defensive end slot at the Highlands 24.

Burbank took the lead to stay on a 24-yard keeper from the Bulldogs quarterback one play later. It was 28-21 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

With 7:05 to play, Luna (55 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards) scored on another reverse, this time from seven yards out.

Another bad Highlands snap went into the end zone for a safety that gave Burbank a 37-21 edge. Alberto Regallado returned the free kick seven yards to the Owls 42. The short field led to a five-yard touchdown run from Bulldogs junior Tru Bradford (47 yards, 11 attempts), which capped the scoring at 43 unanswered Burbank points.

“We were just hungry,” said Sanchez, who ran for 97 yards on 25 carries. “We’ve been working hard. We deserved this.”

Highlands, which had a 16-game winning streak in the series, scored at the end of its first possession. Always-reliable kicker Americo Ayala nailed a 31-yard field goal with 8:07 remaining in the first quarter.

An interception by Owls defensive back Elijah Garces led to Highlands’ first touchdown. Garces eventually shifted from fullback to quarterback offensively to help the Owls stem the flood of Burbank points.

DeLuna (7 of 12, 58 yards) threw 17 yards to his favorite target Xavier Long (58 yards, 5 catches), threading the needle with 5:56 left in the quarter.

The Owls added 11 points to their lead in the second quarter, despite DeLuna’s absence.

A 53-yard run from junior back Quindon Boston with 5:42 until halftime gave the Owls a lift when they needed one. Boston (61 yards, 6 carries) broke the play on a slant off left guard and cut to the sideline to outrun the Bulldogs’ defenders.

Highlands increased its lead to 18-0 when junior backup quarterback John Cervantes from the swinging gate ran for the two-point conversion.

With 20 seconds until halftime, Ayala connected on a 21-yard field goal that gave the Owls a 21-point lead.

Back De-Morriay Richardson led the Owls in rushing with 63 yards on five attempts.

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