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By Loren Kopff
BURBANK-John Burroughs High is less than a mile from the Walt Disney Studios but for the Norwalk High football team, there would be no fairytale ending in its California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Southeast Division first round playoff game. The Lancers were mired in a defensive tussle with the division’s fourth-ranked team and came up short in a 16-9 decision last Friday night at Memorial Field.
Norwalk, which entered the contest on a four-game winning streak in which it had outscored its opponents 202-20 with a pair of shutouts, was limited to 205 yards on the ground and failed to reach double figures in points for the fourth time this season. The third place representatives from the Suburban League end their season at 5-6.
“It was a tough game playing against a good team,” said Norwalk first-year head coach Otis Harrison. “Opportunities to score on both sides of the ball were going to be very limited. They made more plays than we did, bottom line. Hats off to them.”
Norwalk took the opening kickoff and did what it has been known to do for the past nine seasons-run the ball and control the clock. Six different players rushed for a combined 48 yards as the Lancers got down to the Burroughs 17-yard line. It was there where Harrison opted to go for a 34-yard field goal, which was successful by junior Eduardo Nava with 5:01 left in the opening quarter. It was the first field goal by the Lancers this season.
“We just couldn’t cross the goal line,” Harrison said. “We couldn’t get it done and I take responsibility for that. We need to be better in finishing drives. Again, [Burroughs] made a lot of plays. Some of those plays that normally would have gone for touchdowns, they made a lot of open field tackles.”
The Indians (10-1) responded in their only possession of the quarter and used up 4:28 to go up 7-3 following a 45-yard connection from Steven Hubbell to Erick Hernandez. After the Lancers went three and out, Burroughs added to its lead when Cade Boreland was true on a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
After that, it would be mostly defense from both teams, more so on the team wearing the red uniforms. Norwalk would get as far as the Burroughs 45-yard line in the first half after its opening drive. But that came with less than a minute remaining in the first half and before senior quarterback Ausencio Navarro was sacked for a 13-yard loss by Connor Garden.
The Indians were looking to add to their lead early in the second half. But on fourth and two from the Norwalk 16-yard line, Hubbell was sacked by senior linebacker Kirk Brown and junior defensive end Jordan Thomas. Aided by a 50-yard run down the left sideline from senior running back Chris Walker, the Lancers finally found the end zone when Brown scooted 25 yards with 4:55 left in the third quarter. However, Nava’s extra point would be missed.
Norwalk was gaining some momentum after junior lineman Robert Rodriguez picked off Hubbell at the Burroughs 27-yard line. But the offense would be stymied and Nava would miss a 33-yard field goal with 2:10 left in the stanza.
The Indians would take advantage of the missed field goal and drove to the Norwalk nine-yard line. But on fourth and one, Hubbell appeared to be stopped by Brown, thus giving the Lancers the ball. The officials brought the chains out to measure for a first down and after originally marking the chains down, the officials moved the chains again and eventually awarded the Indians the first down at the eight-yard line. On the next play, Hubbell tossed a touchdown pass to Torin Harris with 9:01 left in the game.
“We got one call our way all night,” Harrison said. “I’ve never been one to…we don’t get a lot of calls. But having said that, there were plays where we had them third and 15 or third and 20 and they got the first down. Players make plays and I guess they made it on that.”
Norwalk chewed up the next 6:49 in its only possession of the fourth quarter on 11 straight rushes. But on fourth and eight from the Burroughs 36-yard line, Navarro was incomplete and the Indians ran out the final 2:12.
Brown led Norwalk with 80 yards on 16 carries while Walker added another 59 yards on nine carries. Sophomore fullback Daniel Faamatau chipped in with another 40 yards on eight touches while on defense, Brown led the way with seven tackles followed by six and half tackles from sophomore safety Billy Joseph Moore and four and half more from junior linebacker Austin Perez.
“I’m proud of them and I hope one day we feel proud of [this season],” Harrison said. “Right now it stings. It should have been still 10 [points]. Maybe I’ll look back and reflect on it. But we have expectations on performing well and that’s just the expectation all the time.”
But as good as the defense was, yielding less than 17 points for the fifth straight game, it still had trouble containing Hubbell. The crafty signal caller completed 13 of 18 passes for 186 with his first and last completions going for the only two touchdowns. He also picked up 44 yards on 12 carries.
“He’s a cool customer,” Harrison said. “He’s an outstanding performer; keeps his head on his shoulder. He played banged up because we really bruised that guy up really well tonight. He was calm under pressure. He made plays, he made guys miss and on the flip side to that, I didn’t work on breaking down [on tackles], probably.”
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