Sage Hill School football coach J.R. Tolver says there aren't many teenage boys from San Juan Capistrano like Will Burns. Those kids, he says, tend to stay home and play for rival St. Margaret's or another south county school.
Tolver lucked out with the Burns family. He has two Burns boys, Will and Zach, playing for him this year. The oldest is Will and he's making plays for the Lightning as a senior.
Burns gets to play near his house on Friday, when Sage Hill travels to St. Margaret's for an Academy League opener. The campus is a five-minute drive from where Burns lives, yet he says he will travel from Newport Coast with his Lightning teammates to the game.
The trip to his neighborhood is one Burns hopes turns out memorable.
"We have never beaten St. Margaret's," says Burns, who remembers the one time Sage Hill came close to knocking off the Tartans.
Three years ago as a freshman, the Lightning lost to St. Margaret's, 10-6. Burns says he didn't get to play in that home game.
Expect him to have a hand, arm or leg in this year's contest.
Burns starts at middle linebacker and wide receiver, and he's the kicker and punter. He handles all the duties well, and all have factored into Sage Hill's best start in three years.
Sage Hill goes into the showdown at St. Margaret's with a 3-3 record and momentum. The team is coming off a 37-30 quadruple overtime upset of Yermo Silver Valley, then ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division poll.
Last week's contest at Sage Hill lasted almost 3 1/2 hours. The longest game in school history took a toll on the Lightning, especially Burns. He made 19 solo tackles, caught four passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, converted a 23-yard field goal and four extra-point kicks, and punted four times for a 39-yard average.
Nevertheless, Burns says he and his team are ready to face a second straight undefeated team in powerhouse St. Margaret's (5-0), ranked No. 1 in the East Valley Division.
Burns says he chose to attend Sage Hill over St. Margaret's because of how he felt when he toured the Newport Coast campus. The vibe, he says, was friendly and inviting.
By the way, he says St. Margaret's finished third on his list of high schools. Santa Margarita was second.
When Burns sets foot at St. Margaret's on Friday, he and his teammates aren't backing down from a program that has won 10 league titles in a row and has only lost one league contest during the stretch. Since that league setback nine years ago, the Tartans have reeled off 27 consecutive league victories, tying the third-longest league winning streak in Orange County.
The Tartans this year have almost as many wins as Sage Hill recorded in 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined (six).
"Coming into the season, a lot of people were skeptical about our team," says Burns, who understands why because Sage Hill went winless last year, a first for the program in its 11 varsity seasons. "[The Tartans] have a great football team and we have a great football team. We have something to prove."
Burns says he doesn't personally know many of the players at St. Margaret's. He's looking forward to introducing himself the best way he knows how, with his play on the field on Friday.*
Born: Jan. 23, 1995
Hometown: San Juan Capistrano
Weight: 160 pounds
Coach: J.R. Tolver
Favorite food: Cheeseburger
Favorite movie: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Favorite athletic moment: "Our last win."
Week in review: Burns contributed in all facets of the game, helping the Lightning upset Yermo Silver Valley, 37-30, in quadruple overtime. He made 19 solo tackles, caught four passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, converted a 23-yard field goal and four extra-point kicks, and punted four times for a 39-yard average.