Burbank High defensive lineman Steven Kim has 12 sacks this season.

Burbank High defensive lineman Steven Kim has 12 sacks this season. (Tim berger Staff Photographer / October 30, 2012)

Steven Kim wanted to carry the ball when he first arrived to the Burbank High football program as a freshman four years ago, so he became a fullback.

However, his struggles in the freshman Big Game in 2009 made him rethink his decision to be a ball carrier.

"I actually fumbled twice against Burroughs in that game," said Kim, a senior. "One of our assistant coaches, coach [Pete] Rosas, suggested that I should play defense, and maybe the line would be a good place for me."

Kim made the switch prior to his sophomore season, and he says the decision was one of the best he's ever made. Since moving to defensive lineman, the 5-foot-11, 265-pound nose tackle has earned two consecutive All-Pacific League and All-Area honors while putting up impressive numbers for the Bulldogs.

"That is a kid that has worked very hard to learn the position and make himself better as a lineman," Burbank Coach Hector Valencia said. "Every year he has improved and this season he's a guy on our defensive line that other teams have trouble stopping. He has definitely become a force."

Kim takes that pedigree into this season's Big Game, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Field. The Bulldogs will be taking on the Indians in the 63rd installment of the storied cross-town rivalry. Both teams are fighting for playoff spots, and each needs a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.

With Kim anchoring the defense, Burbank (6-3, 5-1 in league) is in the midst of a successful season and has the chance to make the playoffs after falling short a year ago.

A tough defense has been one of the keys to that success. In nine games, Burbank has surrendered just 15.8 points a contest and has given up an average of 15.0 in league.

"We like to play tough defense," Kim said. "We know that in games the defense is going to have to step up, so we try and do our part for the team."

Kim has definitely done his part from his nose guard spot. His most impressive statistic is his 12 sacks. In a Pacific League game against Arcadia, Kim had four sacks for a loss of 16 yards.

"People might not realize how hard that is to get 12 sacks when you're a down lineman," Valencia said. "Those kinds of stats usually come from guys on the edge. You also have to realize that Steven has been able to do that when he's been double-teamed most of the time. Other teams target him and he's been able to fight through it."

Along with the sacks, Kim has also tallied 57 tackles (29 solo) and averages 6.3 tackles a game. He also scored a touchdown in a league game against Crescenta Valley when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a score.

As much as he enjoyed scoring the touchdown, and collecting the tackles, Kim said he enjoys making the sacks the most.

"It's just a great feeling, it's awesome," he said. "I love hitting people, that's the best part of football to me. But when you get the quarterback and just see his face, that's a pretty good feeling."

As a leader on the Burbank team, Kim has earned respect of players on the offensive, as well as the defensive, side.

"Steven Kim is a hard worker that I get the honor to go against every day at practice," Burbank starting center Jacob Jimenez said. "He is just so hungry to be a first-team all-league player this season."

Kim and the Bulldogs would like to keep the season going past Friday's Big Game with Burroughs. However, if the Bulldogs — who are in second place — do suffer a loss, there is a scenario that could leave them out of the playoff picture completely.

During his tenure on varsity, Kim and the Bulldogs have gone 0-2 against Burroughs. In 2010, the Bulldogs had a 28-0 lead in the second quarter only to lose, 38-35.

"I tell my team about that year, and we can't let something like that happen again," Kim said. "But we've been working hard and we're ready."