By Jennifer Eisenbart
Somehow, some way, the Burlington High School football team found a way to hang with Lake Geneva Badger through two and a half quarters Friday night.
Then the wheels came off.
Burlington, which struggled to find any consistency in its running game against the Badgers, saw its opponent reel off 19 unanswered points Friday night, and lost what was the Southern Lakes Conference opening game for both teams, 33-12.
Both squads are now 1-1 on the year.
The Demons were within 14-12 about midway through the third quarter before Badger put together a scoring drive to go ahead 20-12.
Still within a score, a critical drive for the Demons ended with a punt – and Badger drove down to score.
“We made some mistakes,” said head coach Hans Block. “We had too many penalties. It helped them sometimes.
“Quite honestly, take those two long passes out … we didn’t sustain anything consistently.
The two long pass plays were Burlington’s two touchdowns in the contest – a 79-yard throw from Jayden Essman to Chad Redmer in the second quarter, and a 70-yard pass from Essman to Ty Dennis in the third.
The extra points failed on both tries, and those 149 yards accounted for more than two-thirds of BHS’s 259 yards in the game.
In the meantime, Badger dominated with its running game. The Badgers had 398 yards on the ground, and didn’t complete a pass until the fourth quarter, when Peter Krien hit Robert Slagle for the final score of the game.
Krien finished with 74 yards rushing, Robert Johnson with 218, and Badger effectively ran off clock for large periods of the game.
But while the Badgers committed more penalties than the Demons – BHS had six flags for 39 yards – three of those penalties came at crucial points.
Two came on Badger’s first scoring drive of the second half, and the third turned into an offsetting penalty situation where the Demons would have had first down following a pass interference play.
“I can say it was a questionable call,” said Block, who declined to elaborate further. Dennis was interfered with when Essman attempted a pass, and Badger picked off the ball. However, BHS was called for clipping on the return.
But what really frustrated Block in the game was a forced change in its offensive plan.
“Pass when you want to pass. Not pass when you need to pass,” said Block of the game plan. Unfortunately, down by two scores to Badger, Essman was forced into 22 throws, completing just eight – though Block was quick to point out Essman’s receivers dropped a few passes and Block had instructed his quarterback to throw it away if needed.
Beyond the offensive troubles, Block said Badger’s defense did the job, and consistent problems with kicking – Badger was getting the ball around midfield, while BHS was consistently starting between the 20- and 30-yard lines – hurt as well.
“And offensively, we just could not getting anything consistent going on the ground,” he added.
This week gets no easier for BHS, as the Demons travel to Waterford for a 7 p.m. game Friday.
“I see a big, physical team that likes to run the ball,” Block said. “They have multiple tools and weapons. They play very, very aggressive defensively.”