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Damien football receivers stands tall with small, yet scrappy players

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 LA VERNE >> The Damien High School football team prides itself on being small but scrappy. Senior Brandon Burchfield and junior Mike McCauley are a good example of that. McCauley is listed at 6-feet but he concedes to being closer to 5-11. Fellow wide receiver Brandon Burchfield is even smaller: He goes about 5-7 and 140 pounds.

But the two have come up huge for a team that is looking to challenge the traditional powers for supremacy in the tough Baseline League.

The Spartans (5-1, 1-0), ranked sixth in Division 4, will play host to Upland (3-3, 0-1) in a pivotal league game Friday night at 7 p.m.

“That’s us,” Spartans coach Mark Paredes said. “We’re not going to be bigger than anyone we line up against. We just do the best with what we have and try and execute.”

Damien, which already has won more games than it did last year, served notice right out of the gate, defeating a Chino team that started the season ranked No. 2 in its division. Then came a win over always-title contender Glendora.

This is the school’s third year in the league. The previous two Damien teams featured a running offense because it had a dominant back in Dylan Thigpen, who is now at Idaho.

With their marquee player gone, it was the right time to shift offensive philosophies. Junior quarterback Warren Bryan is in his third year as the starter and he is the catalyst of the attack with Burchfield and McCauley the perfect complementary pieces.

Bryan has thrown for 1,582 yards and 13 touchdowns. Burchfield, 17, has 25 receptions for 561 yards and five touchdowns and McCauley, also 17, is close behind with 28 catches for 516 yards and four scores. Both are among the Inland Valley’ statistical leaders.

The pair saw minimal time last year although McCauley got some opportunity late last seen when another player got injured.

Burchfield transferred to the school from Bosco Tech at the end of his sophomore year.

The duo prepared for the new season by competing in summer passing leagues. When they weren’t playing in those games they were working out with Bryan and some of the other receivers to insure that all were on the same page.

“We really worked hard at getting our timing and rhythm down,” Rancho Cucamonga resident McCauley said. “We worked on every route, every pattern. We wanted to make sure everything was perfect.”

“We knew we were going to have a bigger role this year,” Duarte resident Burchfield said. “We wanted to be ready. We were excited about the opportunity.”

There have been some impressive showings for each, Burchfield broke the school’s single-game yardage record with seven catches for 244 yards in a 38-7 win over Claremont. The previous mark of 202 yards by Ricky Davis had stood for 40 years.

It was the same game in which Bryan set a single-game passing record with 436 passing yards.

“That game was really a lot of fun,” Burchfield said. “We played really well.”

McCauley said it was his favorite game this season as well, although he only had three catches for 103 yards.

Neither is looking past any Baseline foes, but the two admit they’re looking forward to squaring off against heavy favorite Rancho Cucamonga because one of the strengths of the Cougars is their secondary.

“It’s always fun to test yourself against the best,” McCauley said. “We know they’re good. It will be great competition.”

Both are small in stature and have similar numbers but Paredes says the two are different when it comes to off the field personalities.

“Mike is a little more serious, straight forward,” the coach said. “Brandon is a little more gregarious. He’ll push the envelope. But they have both come up big and that’s why we have done what we have so far.”

Damien wide receivers Mikey McCauley, left, and Brandon Burchfield at Damien High School in La Verne, CA., Wednesday, October 12, 2016. (Staff photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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