Isaiah Williams is every bit a bulldog. Short, compact and snarling with a ball in his possession.
The Burbank High School senior tailback epitomizes the grit and tenacity of his upstart program, one that moved to 11-0 for the first time with a spirited 26-19 victory over Grant on Saturday afternoon.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I opener on Florin Road played out in front of an overflow crowd that seemed to exhale or gasp with every game-turning play and with the backdrop of dueling drum-line sounds.
It featured longtime rivals of mirror-image programs, and if one man was the difference, it was the one wearing jersey No. 3. The 5-foot-6, 190-pound Williams rushed for 154 yards and had a 25-yard touchdown for a 19-12 lead in the third quarter to give him 1,794 yards and 24 scores on the season. He bulled, spun and sprinted for 254 yards and two scores when Burbank beat Grant 36-27 in Week 2.
And Williams' coach said if he isn't a bulldog, he's something of a very similar bite.
"He's my little pit bull," Titans coach John Heffernan said. "He is so relentless. He took us on his back."
Also burdening the load in warding hold off a Pacers team eager for a seedings upset was quarterback Ernest Jenkins. The junior opened the scoring with a 1-yard run and had 141 yards rushing in running the triple-option run attack. Titans teammate Keith Marcus opened the third quarter with a 66-yard scoring burst for a 13-12 lead and ran
for 78 yards total.
And the defense. Burbank came up with two sacks by dominant defensive tackle Ngalu Tapa in the fourth quarter to give the rising junior recruit a state-leading 22 on the season. Calvin Green dashed the final hopes for Grant (5-6) when he recovered a fumble on a pass reception at the Titans 44 with 1:12 to go. Green put the Titans up
26-19 with a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:34 left to play, moments after Isaiah Rios hit Trayvon Henderson for a short pass that he turned into a 35-yard touchdown to tie it at 19 with 1:09 left in the third. Rios earlier hit Kevin Johnson for a 37-yard touchdown strike.
"Hard fought game, and we knew it would be," Williams said, all grins after shaking hands with scores of well wishers. "I grew up playing football, running the ball. Used to run hills in Pop Warner for the South Sac Vikings. This is so much fun. If we keep playing together, and playing hard, we can keep winning."
In a show of the ongoing rapport and sportsmanship, Grant coach Mike Alberghini, winner of six section titles, congratulated the Titans for "a great game." Later, he embraced his good friend Heffernan and told him he was pulling for the Titans to run the table. "I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Al, and it's been a great,
healthy, fun rivalry," Heffernan said. "I don't think we'd be the program we are today without Grant. They have been a gauge for us, have pushed us, and they kicked our butts there for awhile in the past. We grew and learned from it."
With one storied program down in Grant, Burbank now takes on a section D-I power of late in Pleasant Grove, which beat 9-1 Stagg 22-21 on a late field goal Friday in another opener. Heffernan and Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico are longtime pals, having coached All-Star games together and talked shop by the hour. Heffernan said Burbank will host Pleasant Grove next Saturday at 1 p.m. He isn't going with a Friday kickoff because he is enjoying the sudden day-game momentum and also understanding that, "my friend Joe hasn't played a day game all year."
Friends and foes, playoff style.
Bee photo by Hector Amezcua: Burbank High School Isaiah Williams (3) celebrates with teammates his team's 26-19 victory against Grant High School in their football playoff opener in Sacramento, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.
- Joe Davidson
- On Twtter: @SacBee_JoeD
- On podcast: ESPN1320.net
- On cable: SureWestSports.com