Grant Tully impressive as Klug sits out with leg injury

Grant Tully rips off a big run Thursday night. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

RACINE – Moral victories aren’t necessarily a real thing.

Sure, it’s nice to leave everything on the field and never give up, but everyone wants to win.

Although Racine Horlick scored 14 unanswered points to hold off visiting Burlington, 14-7, Thursday night, it was the how that matters.

“From last Monday at practice until now, this may be the best eight days of progress I’ve ever seen from a team,” Burlington head coach Steve Tenhagen told his team in the postgame huddle.

Considering Division 1 college running back recruit Joe Garcia, all 6-3, 180 pounds of him, ran roughshod for two long touchdown runs in roughly 15 minutes of clock time, and the Demons were without star quarterback Nick Klug, who amassed 200 total yards in a week one win, the Burlington staff and players must like their chances heading into a Southern Lakes Conference opener against Union Grove Friday.

“The sky is the limit for this team and we proved that to not only our conference but to ourselves tonight,” said senior Grant Tully, who was told Monday he would be starting at quarterback in place of Klug.

Senior defensive lineman Ben Golon, who anchored a run defense that held Horlick in check for nearly three quarters, seconded Tully’s sentiment.

“I feel really good moving on even though we lost,” said Golon, who led the Demons with 8.5 tackles including 1.5 for loss. “We played a heck of a game and we know what kind of team we can be.”

It’s easy for the Demons to exude confidence after Thursday’s performance.

Though the Rebels eventually figured out an at-times dominant Burlington defensive front, the short-handed Demons, with all new skills positions players from a year ago minus Joe Tully, had a chance to tie a 14-7 game with three minutes to play and 80 yards to march.

Grant Tully, who willed his way to 89 yards rushing, sometimes off broken plays and sheer football instincts, showed his passing ability in the final drive, with a 13-yard strike to Nick Webley and chains-moving short out routes to Joe Tully and Zeff Jones, who fully extended for a diving sideline stab.

The Burlington defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage for three quarters. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

After a timeout, Burlington faced a fourth-and-10 at the Racine Horlick 25. Tully caught the snap but fumbled after trying to fake a handoff to Zach Anderson, who added 60 yards on 11 carries. Horlick recovered and ran out the clock for the victory.

“It’s a tough one when you end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard,” Tenhagen said. “We played our butts off, and we knew the firepower they had offensively. We knew we’d have to play a heck of a game defensively, and we felt we did that. I was pleased with our offense at times as well. We got a low-scoring game, and we had a chance to win. We left it out there.”

“The growth we’ve made in the last 10 days with a young group has been pretty tremendous. We kept points off the board and gave ourselves a chance.”

Horlick outgained Burlington, 361-198, but 105 of that came on Garcia touchdown sprints of 72 and 33 yards.

For the first 30 minutes of football, the Demons were in a dogfight.

A scoreless first quarter featured an interception by Grant Tully, who played strong safety and didn’t come off the field all night.

After the stingy Burlington defense forced two consecutive turnovers on downs backed up in their own territory, Grant Tully went to work offensively, busting off runs of 12 and 7 to set up a 41-yard Cora Anderson field goal attempt, which fell a few feet short to end the first half.


Demons break through

The defense was back at it to start the third quarter, as Sawyer Schick and the Rebels kept passing to open the third despite Garcia and plenty of running success.

On third and long, Harrison George had an interception slip through his fingers.

The ensuing punt set up Burlington in its own territory. On a broken play, Grant Tully burst up the middle for a first down. On the next play, he bounced it outside for a 25-yard jaunt down the left sideline.

Another Grant Tully run set up first and goal. After he missed a wide-open Joe Tully on a rollout, Tenhagen spread out the defense with five wide receivers, and Grant Tully ran up the gut on fourth-and-goal for the 2-yard touchdown, giving the Demons a 7-0 lead with 20 minutes left in the ball game.

“Running north and south on the field was what really worked tonight,” Grant said. “We knew coming into the game that if we ran laterally their safeties would come down hard and make the tackle. Finally punching it in felt great because we knew this was our chance to really put them in a hole.”

Most great running backs can only be bottled up for so long, and after the teams exchanged punts, Garcia showed why all the hype is true. He ran left and wasn’t touched, distancing himself from speedy George for a 72-yard score. The extra-point pass failed, and it was a 7-6 game.

The Demons defense wasn’t done, as cornerback Julian Luciano blew up what looked like a sure first down as the Rebels were inside the Burlington red zone. But the Demons couldn’t capitalize and gave the ball back to Garcia and the Rebels.

Jack Hartzell (7) goes all out to break up a deep ball, but Horlick’s receiver makes the grab for a 40-yard gain. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Garcia pulled off a few strong runs before a reverse counter to the right yielded daylight and another touchdown waltz, this one for 33 yards.

“They did a nice job and made some run game adjustments in the second half,” Tenhagen said. “Garcia puts his foot in the ground and goes. He’s got speed, as much speed as anyone we’ll see this year.”

“We did a pretty good job containing him in the first half, but you can only keep a guy like that bottled up for so long. I was pleased with our defensive effort.”

Though the final drive didn’t produce points, Tenhagen saw positives.

“We were mixing the run and the pass, and I was pleased with the drive,” he said. “The execution of the final play wasn’t what we wanted, and we need to clean that up. That’s a drive we have to finish.”

“It was a play-action pass, and the exchange just didn’t happen. We’ll move forward.”

Grant Tully finished 8-for-15 passing for 49 yards. Jones led the Demons with 22 yards on three catches.

Josh Letkewicz added 6.5 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss for Burlington.

While Schick struggled to a 5-for-12 passing day for 76 yards, Garcia was the story for the Rebels. He ran for 217 yards on 15 carries, an average of 14.5.

George Sims, another speedy, talented back, added 46 yards, including the two-point run to make it 14-7 late in the game.

Burlington opens SLC play at home against Union Grove Friday.