Daily Journal Sports File
Burlingame quarterback Avery Gindreaux was more adept at beating defense with his legs last season. This year, the Panthers will need more from his arm if they are to have success in the Bay Division.
Every team likes to have a secret weapon heading into a new season. Burlingame football’s may just be starting quarterback Avery Gindraux.
Folks obviously know who Gindraux is. In his first varsity go-around last season, he led the Panthers to an undefeated regular-season record in Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division play, just the sixth in school history. What remains to be seen is how the team’s passing game will hold up this year with Burlingame moving up to the Bay Division.
Now a senior, Gindraux threw the ball a total of 89 times last season. With Burlingame outscoring its opposition 500-73 in regular-season play behind a trio of dynamic running backs though, not only did Gindraux not have to go to the air, often times it would have been offensive if he did.
“There wasn’t really much of a need to open it up offensively,” Burlingame head coach John Philipopoulos said. “I think that’s going to be much different this year, playing a division up, obviously.”
Generally regarded as Bay Division-caliber team, Burlingame spent one season in the Ocean Division at the request of Philipopoulos. The Panthers were coming off a 5-6 overall record in 2012 and were graduating a majority of its roster. This year is not much different, with 16 seniors on its 40-man roster.
With an experienced interior offensive line though, including 6-4, 205-pound senior guard Grant James, the Panthers not only have the strength to transition back to the upper division, but they look to have the talent to allow their skill players to flourish. And with plenty of depth to take over in the backfield, Burlingame entered into its double-days with a fairly concrete idea of its ground-game personnel from the outset.
Running back Griffin Intrieri enters the season as the spotlight rusher. At 5-7, 155 pounds, the senior team captain has overachiever written all over him. He has already achieved much though, ranking third on the team with seven touchdowns as a reserve back last season.
“Griffin is extremely fast,” Philipopoulos said. “He’s got great vision. He’s a guy who’s a little shorter in stature, but has a good combination of speed and power as well. He has the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. He’s going to be a difference maker.”
While Intrieri will be counted upon to do more than merely pound the ball into the end zone this season, Philipopoulos has plenty of weapons at his disposal in order to keep opposing defenses guessing. Junior Laipeli Palu and senior Duran Andrade tabbed 20 or more carries apiece last season. But the running back about whom Philipopoulos is most excited is 5-11, 220-pound junior Chi Le Tang.
“He’s a bruiser,” Philipopoulos said. “He’s one of the fastest kids on the team.”
The backfield depth should also serve the defense well. The Panthers are depending on a lot of two-way players to shine on defense, centering around inside linebackers Palu and 5-11, 205-pound senior Tommy Dryden. Both returning starters, they are described by Philipopoulos as true football players.
“Good readers, good tacklers, and they just play with an edge,” Philipopoulos said.
Burlingame will have no bigger challenge this season than overcoming its lopsided schedule though. With its home field undergoing a makeover since the outset of summer break to replace the bleachers, Burlingame scheduled its first six games this year on the road. With construction expected to be completed by Oct. 10, the Panthers’ home opener isn’t until Oct. 24 against powerhouse Terra Nova.
As the saying goes though, if it ain’t broke. … Burlingame played its first three games on the road last season, tabbing a 3-0 record with two shutouts — a 45-0 win at Mountain View to open the year and a 51-0 victory at South City.
Now, Gindraux is looking to prove he is ready to shoulder the more complex offense needed to persevere in the Bay Division. The 6-foot senior has come a long way. Having never played Pop Warner football as a kid, he only debuted on the tackle football field as a freshman. And he entered last season having previously played with only six of his teammates.
“Coming in as a junior, I definitely felt like I had something to prove last year,” Gindraux said. “I’d never played with any of those kids (from) last year. … I knew they knew who I was, but I definitely had something to prove. And I definitely feel like I have something to prove to these new guys.”
Gindraux certainly seems to have a believer in his head coach.
“He’s a very intelligent young man,” Philipopoulos said. “He’s very cognitive in the way he approaches the game. He’s got a great arm. He can run. I think he’s going to be one of the better quarterbacks in the county.”
Head coach: John Philipopoulos
2014 record: 5-0 Ocean Division, 11-1 overall
Key returners: Avery Gindraux (sr., QB); Andrew Kennedy (sr., RB/DB); Laipeli Palu (jr., RB/DB); Griffin Intrieri (sr., RB/DB/KR/PR); Zack Baesler (sr., TE/LB)
Key newcomers: George Delegans (jr., WR/DB); Armand Dizadji (so., OL/DL)
2014 Schedule: Sept. 5, @ Capuchino, 3:15 p.m.; Sept. 12, @ Leland, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, @ Los Altos, 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 26, @ South City, 7 p.m.; Oct. 10, @ Menlo-Atherton, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, @ Menlo, 3 p.m.; Oct. 24, TERRA NOVA, 7 p.m.; Oct. 31, SEQUOIA, 7 p.m.; Nov. 7, SACRED HEART PREP, 7 p.m.; Nov. 15, SAN MATEO, 11 a.m.