A couple of games into the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division football season, Burlingame has established itself as the team to beat. With an unblemished record, the bull’s eye on the Panthers’ collective back is huge and matches perfectly with their school colors.
But, three games into the Ocean docket, it’s becoming very clear that the idea of really wanting to beat these Panthers and actually executing at the level you need to can vanish in about, oh, 13 seconds.
That’s how it long it took Burlingame’s Robby Baumgarten to set the tone in Friday’s 41-0 win over Capuchino. After taking the opening kickoff at the 4-yard line and letting his blockers set up, Baumgarten took off like a rocket, entered orbit and didn’t touch down until he found the end zone.
Just like that, Baumgarten and the rest of the Panthers showed the Mustangs just what kind of night it was going to be.
“I love that feeling,” Baumgarten said. “I love to set the tone. I’m always saying, ‘Let me set the tone, boys. Follow me. I’ll follow you if you follow me.’ I love to set the tone and get the tempo going.”
“That’s something that we stress,” said Burlingame head coach John Philipopoulos. “Try to come out and set the tone and get off to a fast start. There’s still some things we need to work on. It got a little sloppy there — a few penalties, missed blocks, missed tackles, things like that. We’re happy to be 8-0, but there is still a lot we need to work on if we want to accomplish our goals.”
Talking missed blocks and penalties is actually nit-picking a bit considering it was yet another game the Panthers dominated and pretty much had on cruise control from the end of the first quarter on.
Four plays into their first offensive series, after Capuchino earned zero yards on its first possession, it was Baumgarten again on a long, explosive run to put the Panthers up 14-0. This time, No. 4 took the ball over the left side and took off 57 yards down the sideline for a score.
“Last season, we had a great team but it just didn’t go as planned,” Baumgarten said. “I think this season, we have it all. We have a team with devotion, passion, we have the athletes. I think we’re a legit team this year.”
The Panthers made it 21-0 with 3:59 left in the first quarter when they took the ball at midfield and scored eight plays into another drive. This time, Manese Palu ran the ball in from a yard out.
Capuchino finally got its initial first down with 1:58 left in the first quarter. The Mustangs got as far the Burlingame 47-yard line before a sack and an incomplete thwarted their best drive of the period. At the end of one, they were down 21-0 and 98-21 in the total yards department.
Burlingame added to its lead by eating up over five minutes of clock during a drive that lasted 11 plays and 92 yards. It culminated with Laipeli Palu rushed in from 16 yards out. The missed extra point made it 27-0.
Capuchino’s longest drive of the night came next. It was a solid 12-play drive that got all the way to the Burlingame 24-yard line but ended with an incomplete pass. The teams went into recess with the same score.
The teams held in the third quarter in terms of scoring. But that doesn’t tell the entire story as Burlingame scored three seconds into the fourth quarter after getting the ball to the 1-yard line on its second drive of the period. Keoni Keahe did the honors from a yard out after doing much of the work on that drive. With the score 34-0, the game went into a running clock.
“It’s all 11 players,” Baumgarten said of the defense. “And the back ups. I think that’s a great thing about our team. We have great back ups on offense and defense that take control of games. We practice hard and that’s something you don’t always see on teams and that’s what makes us special.”
“I was really happy with the defense,” Philipopoulos said. “They played well. They flew around. For the most part, we kept their guys in check.”
Capuchino had one drive under that running clock and it was actually Burlingame and Chi Li Tang who found pay dirt one more time. No. 11 scored from 46 yards out with 1:59 left.
With the win Friday, Burlingame is a win away from owning at least a share of the Ocean title — their first such championship since 2003. But lurking is a talented Woodside team, which just beat up on San Mateo 42-13.
“That’s something we tell the kids, too,” Philipopoulos said. “We’re in first place. We’re 8-0. We’re the team to beat. So at this point, we expect to get every team’s best effort. And I think we’ve gotten it for the most part and the guys have handled it fairly well. But again, we need to get to what we do best.
“Let’s worry about Burlingame, and making sure we approach the practice week the right way, we approach Friday night the right way. So we still got things we need to work on. We need to focus on us and making sure we do things the right way. I think if we do that, things will take care of itself.”