Panthers dominate Little Big Game again, win Paw for seventh straight year

Although Burlingame was two divisions above San Mateo, many thought the Bearcats had a chance to beat the Panthers this year for their first Little Big Game win since 2009.  San Mateo came in having won six straight and were champions of the PAL Lake Division, while Burlingame was coming off a lopsided loss to Aragon.  And after Burlingame went three-and-out on its first possession and San Mateo took advantage with a long touchdown pass, it appeared that the Panthers’ streak was in jeopardy.

Not so fast, Burlingame said.

After falling behind two and a half minutes in, the Panthers scored on their next six possessions to close the first half and cruised from there en route to a 42-7 blowout of their arch rivals in front of a raucous crowd at Burlingame High on Saturday.

“When we focus and when we work hard, we’re a very good football team and that showed today,” coach John Philipopoulos said.  “We felt like, being in the Bay division, playing the level of competition we did, that we played at a much faster tempo.”

Burlingame got its vaunted rushing attack untracked after the Bearcats took the early lead.  The Panthers scored in seven plays, all on the ground, with Sean Saunders carrying it in from 22 yards out to tie the game at 7-7.

Following a three-and-out, Burlingame’s offense went to work again.  Two long runs and a big completion by Saunders put the Panthers in the red zone, and Cole Friedlander cashed it in with a short scoring run to give Burlingame the lead it would never give up.

San Mateo drove into Panther territory on its next possession following a successful fake punt, but the Burlingame defense held and forced a turnover on downs.  Seven straight running plays got the Panthers to the Bearcat 20, and then quarterback Carlo Lopiccolo rolled out to his right and found a wide-open Gray Goodman in the end zone to extend the Burlingame lead to 21-7.

It was then that Burlingame really kicked it into gear.  The Panthers recovered a surprise onside kick at the San Mateo 49, and on the next play Saunders weaved his way through the defense and scampered in for the score.  San Mateo punted on its next possession, and then Lopiccolo threw a short pass to Goodman along the right sideline, and Goodman sprinted past the defense for a 62-yard score.  That made the score 35-7 Panthers, and was the third consecutive offensive play on which Burlingame scored.

Burlingame added another touchdown before halftime following a Bearcat fumble, as a long pass from Lopiccolo to Savaun Brown set up Friedlander’s second score of the day.

“We talked about getting off to a fast start, and the first series didn’t go the way we planned,” Philipopoulos said.  “We stayed calm, didn’t panic, stuck to what we did best.  I thought we had pretty good balance as well.”

Saunders finished with 135 yards rushing and two scores, Friedlander added two touchdowns on 51 yards, and both of Goodman’s catches resulted in scores, totaling 82 yards  Overall, the Panthers totaled 450 offensive yards.

The Panthers’ defense was also stout, limiting San Mateo’s two-pronged rushing attack and potent passing game to 217 total yards of offense.

With Burlingame comfortably ahead, the Panthers rested their starters in the second half in preparation for a CCS playoff game next week, and a running clock was used for much of the final two quarters.

“Not only resting the starters, but getting kids in the game, seniors who had been working hard all season long,” Philipopoulos said.  “It was a perfect day for us.  We played well, got the win, everybody got some good playing time.  It’s important to walk off this field feeling good about ourselves heading into CCS next week.”

With the victory, Burlingame held onto the coveted Paw trophy for the seventh straight year, with the last Bearcats victory coming in 2009.  Burlingame leads the all-time series, which began in 1927, 53-32, with four ties.

“This game is the one game that everybody points to and looks back at as they move on,” Philipopoulos said.  “These kids are going to carry this game with them for the rest of their lives.”

The Panthers will now be headed to the CCS playoffs, where they are the seventh seed in the Open Division III bracket.  They will play at Valley Christian in San Jose on Friday at 7 p.m.

Posted on November 8, 2016 .