After losing 20 of 22 starters from last year’s team to graduation, many expected a regression from the Burlingame football team in 2016. This year’s group, however, is doing its best to make sure that doesn’t happen. The team is currently 2-2, with wins against Mt. Pleasant and Everett Alvarez, and could easily be 3-1 if not for the first five minutes of their game at Half Moon Bay, when they allowed 22 points.
With a younger team this year, there is a steeper learning curve as the team is forced to adapt on the fly, but coaches and players alike expect a strong season once certain kinks are worked out. The running game, as usual, is a strength, with senior Sean Saunders and junior Alec Meredith leading the way. Junior Carlo Lopiccolo is the quarterback, and his top targets include seniors Jack Baker and Gray Goodman and junior Dimitri Rally. Senior Arman Dizadji returns to anchor the offensive line. Through four games, Burlingame has scored 171 points, averaging nearly 43 points per game.
“I’m actually very pleased with our offense. We’ve had some pretty good balance,” Coach John Philipopoulos said. “The run game has been pretty explosive, we’ve scored a lot of points. Our offensive line is always a concern here, but I’ve been pleased with them as well.”
The defense, a major strength of the Panthers the past few years, has regressed a bit, but had a very strong showing against Alvarez on September 9, allowing under 100 yards in the second half and yielding just eight first downs for the game. They also recorded three interceptions and recovered a fumble. Junior John Dryden leads the team in tackles with 30; senior Truls Prather has recorded two sacks; and, five different Panthers have interceptions.
“Defensively, I feel we still have some work to do,” Philipopoulos said. “We took a step in the right direction [against Alvarez].”
The Panthers take pride in being disciplined and prepare methodically for each week’s opponent. They warm up and stretch at the beginning of each practice, and then each player works with his assigned coach based on his position. On Saturdays, they watch film from their game the previous day, and on Mondays and Wednesdays they watch film of their opponent that week. A major part of the Panthers’ weekly preparation involves a scout team, made of both starters and reserves. Players who are part of the scout team will scrimmage against the rest of the team and run plays frequently used by the team the for whom the Panthers are preparing.
“Watching film is definitely key, especially with our program,” senior Joey Michael said. “We’re not always the biggest people on the field, but we’re usually the most mentally sharp and prepared.”
This week, the team is on a bye after their non-league schedule, and it comes at a good time as the competition will get significantly stiffer going forward. The Panthers host Sacred Heart Prep, the only team to beat them in the regular season each of the past two years, on September 30, and then travel to Menlo-Atherton, the favorite to win the PAL Bay Division, on October 7. Those are followed by home games against Hillsdale and Terra Nova and a trip to Aragon before the Little Big Game at home against San Mateo on November 5. The Panthers, however, are remaining undaunted and confident.
“I feel like we’re going to do really well,” Baker said. “I think the turnovers are going to get cut down; we’re going to come out and start better; and, we’re going to win a lot of games and be competitors.”