It's a gauge game every year, the coaches say, and it's how the teams perform in front of their passionate communities and recover from defeat that makes or breaks a season.
Burbank High School on Friday night performed in front of its largest home crowd in the 44-year history on Florin Road within the Sacramento City Unified School District.
The swift and active No. 11 Titans appear on the cusp of a breakthrough season after downing the No. 7 Grant Pacers 36-27 before almost 5,000 fans in a nonleague game that suddenly has both programs heading in opposite directions.
Burbank (2-0) beat the Pacers (1-2) for the first time since 2007 when the Titans celebrated a late rally in Del Paso Heights for the team's first Metro League championship since the early 1970s.
Next for the Titans is a game at the second-winningest program in the last decade at Del Oro in Loomis.
Grant, having won more games than any area team in the last 10 seasons, is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, undone partly by the competition and miscues, and will fall out of The Bee's top 10 for the first time since before coach Mike Alberghini became the head coach in 1991.
"It's a measuring stick playing Grant where we are, where we need to go," Titans coach John Heffernan said. "We learn a lot from this game our kids, the heart. Some years, we're not ready, and this year, we think we're ready."
The Titans were plenty ready. With the triple-option, three-headed attack of quarterback Ernest Jenkins and backs Calvin Green and Isaiah Williams, Burbank more than matched Grant's speed and ferocity. At times, the Titans surpassed it.
Williams rushed for 182 yards, including touchdown runs of 13 and 2 yards.
Jenkins had scoring runs of 11, 7 and 75 yards, and Green rushed for 72 yards.
Grant, coming off a 37-7 loss to Nevada Union, gets no easy break from here, either. It plays at No. 10 Oak Ridge next Friday.
Grant players and coaches said they were pleased to see the Titans have a new stadium, all of 1 year old and still sparkling. It replaced the old grass home digs that was a minefield of gopher holes, prompting Heffernan and the Titans to play all their games on the road for four years.
On Friday, the place was packed, including scores of Burbank alumni who flew in from out of state, eyed the place before kickoff and muttered to one other, "Is this really ours?"
"It's great for Burbank, and it's good for us to be here because they've played at our place so many years in a row," Grant assistant coach Carl Reed said. "This is a nice place."
Grant coaches said they will learn from this rare experience of back-to-back losses, with defensive coordinator Reggie Harris saying, "We have to look at ourselves and ask, How can I be a better coach; how can we be better players?" Harris said. "This tests our competitive spirit."