Given the suspension of athletics in the county, the Daily Journal decided to dive into our 20-year archives to bring readers some of our favorite stories over the years.
NOV. 9, 2013 — With a huge “Yes!” that was muffled by a roaring Caltrain making it’s way north right outside the campus stadium, Burlingame head coach John Philipopoulos made it official: The Panthers’ 11-year championship drought is now over.
For the first time since the 2003 season, Burlingame football can print out those “Division Champion” T-shirts by virtue of their 48-17 shelling of Woodside High School. The win, coupled with an Aragon victory over San Mateo, gives the Panthers the 2013 Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division title and stamps their ticket to the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“It’s been a long time,” Philipopoulos said. “All the credit in the world goes to the kids. They’ve wanted it. They earned it. They responded with a great week of practice. We’ve had an outstanding season to this point but we know our work is not done. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to keep getting better. I feel like we probably played our best game of the season tonight and the timing couldn’t have been any better.”
Indeed it couldn’t have. In Woodside, the Panthers faced arguably their stiffest competition of the season. With the athletes the Wildcats can throw at you, plus their 3-1 record heading into this game, a lot was on the line Friday night. A Woodside win and things would have been much more interesting and heartbreaking for the Panthers.
But Burlingame responded in emphatic fashion. Offensively, they buried the Wildcats to the tune of 311 yards in the first half and 540 for the game. Defensively, they only surrendered two big plays — which were distributed inconsequently between the first and fourth quarters — and they all but shut down the big-play capabilities of Josh Holman and David Teu. They were also all over quarterback Robert Wang the entire night — ultimately forcing him out of the game in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of the way the kids responded,” Philipopoulos said. “This was all them. We watched a lot of film. We basically played a nickel (defensive secondary). We had five defensive backs on the field. They’re pretty athletic. We had five athletes on the field flying around. The kids made plays. But our kids limited the big plays. They (Woodside) made one or two. But we can recover from that. It’s when they start putting five or six together and get in a groove that it gives defenses problems. Our defense has been our backbone all season long though.”
The Burlingame offense spotted the defense a 7-0 advantage early when, two plays into their initial drive, Robbie Baumgarten broke off a 44-yard touchdown run with 10:15 left in the first quarter.
Woodside came back and it appeared PAL fans were in for a dogfight. Nine plays into the Wildcats’ second drive, Wang hooked up with Mitchell Cockrum on a 37-yard touchdown to make it 7-6.
But the Burlingame offense turned on the jets and did not let up. Keone Keahi took a handoff up the gut and broke through the Woodside defense. No one caught him until 51 yards later and by then he was handing the ball to the referee and increasing the Panthers lead.
Then, after Woodside botched a punt attempt and gave Burlingame the ball 20 yards from the goal line, Manase Palu got in on the fun with a 19-yard touchdown run to make it 21-6.
“Fundamentals,” Palu said when asked what the key was to Friday’s offensive explosion. “Fundamentals and practice. I really depend on my ‘O’ line a lot. I can’t thank them enough for all the hard work they’ve been putting forth. It gets really dirty in the trenches and they still come up with some holes for me to cut into and Robby and Keone, they do a great job. They block for me, I block for them.”
The Burlingame offense kept clicking and, as a team, they were handed a big break when a Holman 82-yard punt return for touchdown was nullified by a personal foul penalty — that took seven big points off the board. Burlingame turned that momentum into six of its own after a 2-yard touchdown run by Griffin Intrieri.
Woodside added a field goal to make it 27-9, but the Panthers responded one more time on an 80-yard drive before the half was done that ended with Baumgarten hauling in a 31-yard touchdown catch to increase the lead 34-9.
“They’ve been outstanding all year long,” Philipopoulos said. “Even going back to February, when they hit the weight room getting ready for the season. They knew they had a goal in mind early on and we accomplished one of our goals. We still have some games we want to go get. We know it’s going to be an uphill battle to do it. But our kids are ready for the challenge.”
Woodside didn’t pose much of a challenge in the second half, especially not after Burlingame took the ball 72 yards on the first drive of the period and Baumgarten scored again to make it 41-9.
Touchdowns by Chi Li Ting (69 yards) and Teu capped off the night’s scoring.
“It feels great,” Palu said. “We started from the bottom and look where we are now. You know what I’m saying? We’re league champions. Today, I told them we have to win every play, every down. And we won every play, every down and we got the outcome.
“I can’t really describe it too much — the effort and desire that we had. We know we haven’t won a league championship in 11 years and we came out, we had that mindset. It was a big night for us seniors and our juniors, sophomores our coaches, they all stepped up this week. We did what we could and we came out with a victory.”