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 surging program, 11-0 for the first time with a spirited 26-19 victory over visiting 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 with a backdrop of dueling drum-line rhythms.
It featured longtime rivals of mirror-image programs, and if one player 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 run for a 19-12 lead in the third quarter. He now has 1,794 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
In Week 2, he bulled, spun and sprinted for 254 yards and two touchdowns when Burbank beat Grant 36-27.
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 helping the No. 2 Titans hold off a 15th-seeded Pacers team eager for an upset was quarterback Ernest Jenkins. The junior opened the scoring with a one-yard run and had 141 rushing yards out of the Titans' triple-option attack. Teammate Keith Marcus opened the third quarter with a 66-yard scoring burst for a 13-12 lead. The senior finished with 78 rushing yards.
The Burbank defense got two sacks by dominant junior tackle Ngalu Tapa in the fourth quarter. He has a state-leading 22 this season.
Calvin Green dashed the final hopes for Grant when he recovered a fumble following a pass reception at the Titans' 44 with 1:12 to go. The Pacers (5-6) suffered just their second losing season since 1990.
After Grant's Trayvon Henderson turned a short pass from Isaiah Rios into a 35-yard touchdown to tie the score 19-19 with 1:09 left in the third, Green put Burbank up 26-19 with a five-yard touchdown run with 6:34 left to play.
Rios earlier hit Kevin Johnson for a 37-yard touchdown strike for a 12-7 lead.
"Hard-fought game, and we knew it would be," Williams said. "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 between the schools, Grant coach Mike Alberghini 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 kicked our butts there for a while in the past. We grew and learned from it."
Next up for Burbank is Pleasant Grove, a 22-21 winner over Stagg of Stockton in a first-round game Friday. Pleasant Grove won the 2010 section title and lost to Granite Bay in last season's final.
Heffernan and Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico are longtime pals. Heffernan said Burbank will host Pleasant Grove next Saturday at 1 p.m., enjoying the sudden day-game momentum and understanding that "my friend Joe hasn't played a day game all year."