BURLINGTON – Both Burlington Central and Crystal Lake Central knew that the first drive of the second half could be pivotal to the outcome of a tight game.
It was, as the Tigers stopped a Burlington drive at the Crystal Lake Central 24 and then scored two touchdowns to grab control.
That sequence was key as Crystal Lake Central defeated the Rockets, 28-16, in their Fox Valley Conference game Friday at Rocket Hill.
Crystal Lake Central (5-2, 5-2 FVC) became playoff eligible with the victory. The loss eliminated the Rockets (2-5, 2-5) from a postseason berth.
Burlington took the first possession of the second half, trailing 14-10, and drove into Crystal Lake Central territory. The Tigers stopped the Rockets on a fourth-and-3, then put together some of their best offense of the night.
“At the half we told the kids we had to get a stop right off the bat and we needed to come out and score,” Crystal Lake Central coach Jon McLaughlin said. “I thought that would give us a little bit of room and we would kind of go from there.”
Rockets coach Brian Melvin figured the first possession of the second half could be big for his team.
“That first drive stalled and that was a big momentum change right out of the half,” Melvin said.
After the initial defensive stop of the third quarter, Crystal Lake Central widened its lead to 21-10 on its ensuing possession as quarterback Colton Madura hit wide receiver George Dimopoulos for a 35-yard touchdown.
Madura had a hand in most of the Tigers’ 428 total yards. He rushed 17 times for 146 yards and was 8 of 11 passing for 207 yards.
Tigers running back Brent Blitek scored on a 17-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 28-10. Blitek carried eight times for 78 yards and two scores. He also caught two passes for 78 yards.
Burlington scored the final TD of the night with 6:58 to go in the fourth quarter when quarterback Shawn Adkerson (13 carries, 81 yards) went in from the 1.
Melvin said his squad was successful in limiting the Tigers’ time of possession, but that Rockets could not capitalize on their scoring drives.
“We really wanted to keep their offense off the field,” Melvin said. “I think we did that. We just didn’t finish our drives. We ran 80 plays which is the most we’ve ever run. We just have to finish those drives.”
The Rockets opened the game’s scoring. Griffin Kollhoff’s 30-yard field goal at the 3:21 mark of the first quarter put the Rockets up 3-0.
Crystal Lake Central took a 7-3 lead on its next possession, scoring on a 2-yard Blitek run.
The Tigers widened their lead to 14-3 in the second quarter on Madura’s 30-yard run. The drive started when Jackson Fleming intercepted an Adkerson pass.
With 25 seconds left until halftime, the Rockets narrowed the gap to 14-10. Gavin Sarvis (23 carries, 103 yards) scored on a 5-yard run.