Burlington’s Jake Klug, Luis Guevara and Ryan Koeppen have Homecoming Blues following the Demons’ heartbreaking loss to visiting Wilmot on Oct. 4 (Mike Ramczyk/Standard Press).

Burlington plays Waterford Friday

By Mike Ramczyk

Zack Watson stands a diminutive 5-foot-9 and maybe weighs a buck sixty soaking wet.

He doesn’t look like a prototypical football player.

Short and shifty, yes, but Watson possesses the arm strength and foot speed of a giant.

His performance Friday night in a must-win game for the Wilmot Panthers, on Burlington’s home field coupled with the fact it was the high-charged homecoming game for the Demons, was nothing short of virtuoso.

And the grand finale was the most entertaining part.

With a mere 17 seconds on the clock, with his team facing a fourth-and-goal at the Burlington 3, Watson rolled right and was afforded plenty of time to hit Joe Tanski, who cleverly tapped both feet in the very back of the end zone for the game-winning catch, and Wilmot escaped Don Dalton Stadium with a 35-34 victory over previously unbeaten Burlington (6-1, 4-1 Southern Lakes).

Watson busted off a 65-yard touchdown run, threw for three scores and amassed 246 total yards.

His mastery of the offense and run-pass dual threat kept the Demon defense guessing all game.
The Panthers (6-1, 4-1) now sit in tied for second place with the Demons, one game behind undefeated Waterford, the team responsible for Wilmot’s only loss.

After the game, Watson explained just how big it was to beat Burlington, which only led for seven minutes of the game.

The capacity crowd was stunned, and Burlington advanced the ball into Wilmot territory in the waning seconds, but the Panthers held on for the huge win.

“It felt really good against a team like Burlington,” Watson said. “They’re a good team. I honestly thought we were going to blow them out, but they were way better than I thought they were.”

“They hit me hard tonight, so I’m just glad we pulled it out.”

A miscue comes back to haunt Demons
The momentum shifted late in the third quarter, when an errant Watson pass was intercepted by Burlington’s Jake Klug, who ran it back deep inside Wilmot territory.

First-down runs from Dalton Damon (153 total yards, three TDs) and Zach Wallace (215 rushing yards, 2 TDs) set up Damon’s short touchdown sneak with 7:15 left.

It was Burlington’s first lead of the game at 34-28, but Skyler Danielson missed the extra-point attempt.

Demon senior kicker Cora Anderson, who has been automatic on kicks this season, was on an official college visit.

“It’s tough when we’re in a position like this,” Burlington coach Steve Tenhagen said. “It came down to making some plays at the end, and they did it.”

“They converted big third and fourth downs all night long, in our territory. You got to credit them. They made plays when the game was on the line.”

Tenhagen said the missed extra point, which came back to bite the Demons, wasn’t the reason the team lost.

“Klug made a great play, and we capitalized,” he added. “No football game comes down to one play. We were
confident if we got the ball back, we could go down and score, but they only left us 17 seconds.”

Watson and Wilmot offense didn’t afford Burlington the luxury of another comeback.

Smashmouth football courtesy of Leo Falletti and Watson dwindled the clock on Wilmot’s final drive.

Watson was able to bust off a 23-yard run, and Falletti converted a key first down to set up goal to go.

Ground and pound wears ‘em down
Overall, the Panthers perfectly executed the game plan of running the ball and keeping the explosive Burlington offense off the field at all costs.

“We scored a touchdown on it earlier,” Watson said of the game-winner. “Joey made a heck of a play by stopping in the open spot. I’ve been playing with him since eighth grade.”

Wallace almost single-handedly brought the Demons back in the second half.

He bolted right for a 73-yard touchdown scamper before bursting up the middle on the next Demon possession to make it 28-28 with 10:16 remaining.

Wilmot outgained Burlington, 410-376.

Falletti finished with nine carries for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Tanski had three catches for 66 yards, and Austin Schroeder caught Watson’s other touchdown pass.

To read the entire story, see the Oct. 10 edition of the Standard Press.