Earning hashmarks with his hits

The inspiration to play came from an event likely to result in exactly the opposite for many.

While living in Oregon, South Kitsap senior Josh Burlingame watched as his brother John, who is two years older, broke his back playing football.

Rather than serve as a precursor to pursue other activities, Burlingame said the event got him onto the field.

“He couldn’t play again and that kind of got me into it,” he said. “He still talks about it. He loves the game.”

He also loves to watch his brother make a hit.

Burlingame, who’s listed at 5-foot-9 1/2 and 207 pounds, was tied with tight end/defensive lineman Matt Foxworthy with 18 “hashmarks” entering last week’s game against Olympia.

Foxworthy outweighs his teammate by about 20 pounds and stands more than seven inches taller.

“He has a fire burning inside of him to play football,” South coach D.J. Sigurdson said about Burlingame. “He’s a throwback guy. He just wants to play.”

That shows with the hashmarks, which are rated in several ways on offense, defense and special teams, but roughly are awarded for physical, legal hits.

“We’ve got a strong team behind us so me and Foxworthy can make our hashmarks because we have strong linemen,” Burlingame said.

Sigurdson said he compares Burlingame’s mentality to another undersized linebacker, Chris Anderson, who graduated from South in 2004 and went on to play at Central Washington. He said Burlingame has a similar personality where he “doesn’t worry about the next play, doesn’t worry about the next game, he doesn’t worry about next year, he just plays.”

Burlingame will try and do more of that at 7 tonight when he plays perhaps his final high school football game against Kamiak at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy.

“Just like every person on the team, we try and make big plays to pump up the defense,” Burlingame said.

“The defensive line gives us holes and puts us in a good position.”

He said several people deserve credit, particularly his family -- he’s the youngest of 10 siblings -- for him playing this season. Burlingame tore the anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee early last season and missed the rest of the year.

“It was pretty tough, I just had to struggle and stick in there and listen to (South athletic trainer Pat) Olsen.”

And just as his family, which includes six boys and four girls, looked over him while he was growing up, Burlingame watches out for his teammates. As a fullback, he often is the lead blocker for Stephen Tucker and Ryan Williams.

“I just have to keep them safe and untouched,” he said. “We’ve got a great line to open up holes.”

Once football season ends and he graduates, Burlingame hopes to return to his native Hawaii. He said his parents originally are from the Northwest -- “[they] went there for their anniversary and never came back” -- but the family eventually returned.

“If I don’t go to college, I want to start my own construction business with my brothers,” he said.

But first, a few more hashmarks.

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