Demons lifted by late field goal

Nate Crayton (10) shows his excitement with Zach Anderson (32) and Joe Tully after the Demons recovered a fumble Friday night. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

BURLINGTON – Cora Anderson picked one heck of a time to make her first field goal of the season.

The Burlington football team’s sophomore kicker, who had fallen inches shy on several attempts this season, finally boomed one through the uprights, and it helped the host Demons clinch a playoff berth Friday night for the first time since 2014 with a 17-6 victory over a banged-up Wilmot squad.

Playing in its annual Homecoming game, Burlington improved to 5-3 overall with its third straight victory and 4-2 in the Southern Lakes Conference, assuring the playoff criteria of a winning conference mark.

Anderson, an Iowa State soccer recruit, scored the game’s final points with a 30-yard field goal at the 5:48 mark, capping a short Burlington drive after a Wilmot lost fumble. She barely made a 25-yarder, but a false start forced the team back five yards. Then, a season’s worth of tough-luck misses was erased as Anderson boomed her kick through the uprights with room to spare.

“I was really nervous when they had to back it up five yards after my first attempt,” Anderson said. “Grant had a great hold and I knew if I made it, it would give my team a great advantage. I also had a lot of adrenaline because we were ahead and had a good chance of going to the playoffs.”

“She definitely hit that second one,” said Burlington head coach Steve Tenhagen. “I told her last week after missing two field goals, we’re going to need her at some point this year. Tonight was the night. For her to step up and hit that one was pretty special.”

Tenhagen said the Demons played a complete game, and the coaching staff had a feeling it would be a run-heavy offense in rainy conditions.

“It feels great,” Tenhagen added. “It’s been a few years since we’ve beaten a team that tends to finish in the top half of the league. To see what we see right now is why you do this.”

“The ball was wet, and we couldn’t grip it. I’m pleased with the way we responded up front. The defense knew what we were going to do, but we were able to put some points on the board. In terms of team effort on both sides of the ball, this was our best performance of the year.”

Due to rainy conditions, Burlington was forced to surrender its pass-happy approach in the first half, and the smash-mouth method worked wonders. Grant Tully ran for more than 100 yards in the first half, including a 51-yard touchdown, and Nick Klug added a short touchdown run to give Burlington a 14-6 halftime lead.

Wilmot was without star quarterback A.J. Frisby, who was out with a knee injury, and leading rusher Austin Norton went out with an injury in the first quarter. Running back Robert Brent was forced to play quarterback, which limited the Panther attack.

Wilmot, which lost three fumbles in the game, lost a crucial one midway through the third quarter around midfield, as Brent’s pitch on an option was lost and recovered by Tully.

A steady rushing diet of Klug, Tully and Zach Anderson moved the ball inside the Wilmot 10, setting up Anderson’s clutch kick.

Wilmot’s lone score came on a one-play drive after a Burlington muffed snap on a punt deep in its own territory. Brent scampered 25 yards, and a missed extra point made it 7-6.

Tully finished with 158 yards on 23 carries.

“The atmosphere is awesome right now,” he said. “We haven’t made the playoffs in a few years. It’s Homecoming, and it’s good to get a win against a good team. We’re back in the playoffs, and it’s pretty cool.”

Cora Anderson prepares to kick her 30-yard field goal as Grant Tully provides a perfect hold Friday night. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Defense dominant for Burlington

Burlington held the Panthers scoreless in the second half and only surrendered 228 total yards. Brent battled his way to 104 yards on 20 carries, but the Panthers were often hampered by critical turnovers and bad field position.

Burlington’s defense dominated with nine tackles for loss and three sacks, led by Josh Letkewicz’s three tackles behind the line and one sack.

Burlington didn’t turn the ball over and won the time of possession, 26 minutes to 21.

“Our defense had a tremendous night,” Tenhagen said. “I’m very pleased with how they responded. Injuries are unfortunately part of the game. We’ve been on the other end of that in different seasons. We didn’t know who was playing quarterback, and their back went down. We played physical, we played fast, and any time you allow single digits, that’s good.”

Harrison George led the Demons with 7.5 tackles.

“It’s a real special night,” George said. “I was unfortunate enough to be on the playoff team my freshman year. We need to take care of Elkhorn next week, but I’m excited to see what happens with these guys. The sky’s the limit.”

“We knew it would be a dog fight with this weather. The defense played great and stretched plays out. The ‘D’ totally gritted this one out.”

For Wilmot coach Keiya Square, it was a frustrating night without the starting quarterback and starting running back. The Panthers now find themselves in a winner-take-all game with rival Westosha next week, as the winner will advance to the playoffs and the loser will be left out.

“We just didn’t get the job done,” Square said. “I thought we had a good game plan, but Austin Norton going down put a wrench in what we wanted to do. The kids that played all played hard. In the second half, we had terrible field position on our first few possessions. We just didn’t make the plays when we were there.”

“We asked Brent to do something he’s never done before, and he did a really good job. He carried our run game, and he made some throws at the end. A lot of people can say the experiment didn’t work, but who knows what would’ve happened without the ball in his hands.”

Despite the playoff berth, Tenhagen isn’t looking too far ahead. The Demons travel to Elkhorn (1-7) next Friday.

“We have to finish the season strong, and it’s an important game,” Tenhagen said. “When it comes to the seeding meeting, you want to move up. Any time you can stay out of the 7 or 8 spots, seeding is a big part of the playoffs, and next Friday will be crucial.”

“We were closer to a complete game tonight, and progress is something we talk about quite a bit. It’s so important to play your best football at the end of the season, and I think we’re doing that right now.”

 

Other area scores

Waterford 52, Union Grove 28

Lake Geneva Badger 42, Elkhorn 0

Westosha Central 38, Delavan-Darien 28

 

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