Burlingame gears up for showdown with Homestead

In late September last season, the Burlingame High School football team survived a thrilling 13-12 victory over Homestead on the strength of a fourth-quarter touchdown.

“It was a tough, physical game,” recalled Burlingame coach John Philipopoulos after a Panthers practice this week. “It could have gone either way, and fortunately we won.”

Tonight, the Mustangs travel to Burlingame for a rematch that Philipopoulos figures will be just as grueling as the game last year.

“They have good size,” Philipopoulos said. “They are a very polished team. They are going to be a good test for us.”

At 1-1 on the season and coming off a win last week over Gunn, Burlingame is looking for two more weeks of solid play before getting into Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division action on Oct. 8.

But they are facing a Homestead team that has racked up two pretty impressive wins over Half Moon Bay and King’s Academy already this year.

And making matters worse for the Panthers, they will be playing without the services of the top rusher in San Mateo County in 2009 — senior running back Ilan Lesov, who is still working his way back from injury.

Burlingame also has a few other players battling the injury bug going into tonight’s contest.

“We have some adversity that we’re going to have to overcome,” Philipopoulos said. “Some other guys are going to have to step up and do the job.”

But there is a silver lining to the cloud currently hanging over the Panthers.

“By the time we get into league we’ll have most, if not all of our starters back,” Philipopoulos said. “We’ll have a bunch of kids with a lot of experience on the bench and we’re going to be a team to reckon with.”

But first, there is Homestead to get past Friday, and job No. 1 for Burlingame is finding a way to slow down running back Kyree Rhodes.

In two games, Rhodes has piled up 325 yards rushing on just 21 carries, and it will fall to the Panthers’ defense to keep Rhodes in check.

The Panthers defense has been solid so far.

It has been its offense that has been a little questionable, especially when it comes to holding onto the ball.

“We want to keep playing good defense and clean up on some mistakes,” Philipopoulos said. “We’ve been careless with the football and this game is probably going to come down to turnovers.”

If this year’s contest is anything like last season’s, expect it to come down to the wire.

GAME DAY

Homestead (2-0) vs. Burlingame (1-1)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Burlingame High School
LAST WEEK: Burlingame defeated Gunn 21-3; Homestead defeated King’s Academy 21-14
LAST YEAR: Burlingame defeated Homestead 13-12 on a fourth-quarter touchdown

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