BURBANK — With just one win in 13 league games for the Burbank High boys' soccer team, some thought Burroughs had a gimme when it faced the Bulldogs on Thursday needing a win to clinch its second straight Pacific League championship.
But the match was anything but a walk-over for the Indians.
Although Burroughs clung to a one-goal lead more than half way through the second half, it was able to come on late in the contest, and sparked by a hat trick from Milosh Petko, the Indians secured a 4-2 victory that allowed them to walk off Memorial Field as league champions.
It was a hard-fought road to the title for Burroughs (15-3-5, 11-1-2), which finished the league campaign with 35 points, just two points ahead of Pasadena (15-1-4, 10-1-3 for 33 points). The pressure was put on the Indians when earlier in the day Pasadena earned a 3-2 victory over rival Muir.
Burroughs is ranked No. 6 in CIF Southern Section Division III and Pasadena is No. 5 in the division.
"We all felt a little pressure coming in," said Burroughs senior co-captain Michael Conrad. "We beat [Burbank] the first time we played them, so maybe we came in a little overconfident this time. Because of that, I think we played a little slow in the first half and that's what made it such a close game."
In the team's first meeting Jan. 24, Burbank (1-13 in league) suffered a 4-1 defeat.
Along with being the second consecutive title for the Indians, it was the ninth league crown — five in the Foothill League and four in the Pacific League — for coach Mike Kodama, who is in his 25th year.
However, this time around, the Bulldogs — who were left with just three players on the bench Thursday — gave their cross-town rivals all they could handle.
"We expected as much; it's a rivalry game," Kodama said. "They made us work and they played well. It was not an easy game for us at all."
Burbank Coach Loi Phan, who said he is considering stepping down as coach, was proud of his team's effort.
"Coming in, everybody thought they we just going to steamroll us and we didn't have a chance," said Phan, who also coaches the school's boys' and girls' tennis teams. "But our guys battled and they put up a good effort. I told them if they could earn the respect of their opponent, they can walk away with their heads held high."
Burroughs was able to take a 2-0 lead in the first half on two goals from Petko. The first came in the 15th minute off an assist by Andres Aguilar and the second came in the 29th minute on a deflection.
But early in the second half, the Bulldogs came roaring back. Just two minutes in, Burbank was awarded a penalty kick and senior Christopher Mazzi made good on the chance, beating Burroughs senior goalkeeper Alberto Meir high and to his left.
The Bulldogs then held the Indians at bay, as Burroughs had several prime scoring chances, but couldn't capitalize on any. The Bulldogs were kept in the game by a fine effort from goalkeeper Andrew Hank, a sophomore, who made 11 saves.
It remained a one-goal game until the 67th minute when Burroughs was awarded a penalty kick after the officials ruled that Petko was pushed in the box. Senior Brandon Gerlach took the kick and scored to put the Indians ahead, 3-1.
"That call changed the whole game," Phan said. "That shouldn't have been a PK. I told the ref after the game that that call changed the game for us. I'm not saying we would have won, but we were challenging and only down by one when he made that call."
Burroughs increased its advantage to 4-1 on Petko's third goal in the 73rd minute.
Burbank added a goal by sophomore Serozh Kirakosyan in the 77th minute.
"This feels great," Petko said about winning the league championship. "I just feel like I'm on top of the world right now.
"We really worked hard for this and I'm so proud of my teammates that we were able to accomplish this and win the title."