LAWRENCE — The Burlington football team had been waiting through a long preseason to play a game for real, and when it did, the Devils delivered a balanced and disciplined performance leaving Veterans Memorial Stadium with a 30-22 win over Lawrence.
Senior quarterback Khyle Pena ran for three touchdowns and threw for another while the Burlington defense shut Lawrence out in the second half to secure the victory.
“The defense tackled a lot better in the second half and I thought we just calmed down,” said Burlington coach Dan MacKay. “I think we adjusted to their speed and got the job done.”
Burlington was adamant on establishing the run and proved that point by running the ball on its first 16 offensive plays. Pena and senior running back John Hurley carried the load generally running behind the left side led by tight end Griffin Carter, left tackle Chris Jones, and left guard Garrett Asher.
The Devils went 60 yards on eight plays on their opening drive with Pena converting a key fourth and three. They finishing off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Pena would run over left tackle for the two-point conversion and Burlington led, 8-0.
Lawrence would answer on its first drive marching 67 yards on seven plays. The drive was keyed by a 21-yard run by Gianni Vargas and the drive culminated on a two-yard fullback dive by Dewy Baez. Vinny Schmidt missed the point after kick.
Pena and Hurley continued to gash the Lawrence defense on the ensuing drive and Pena blasted in his second touchdown of the day from three yards out. His two-point conversion pass attempt to Matt Pinkham fell incomplete and Burlington led 14-6.
Lawrence had its own success on the ground on its second drive with Vargas picking
up yards in chunks into the Burlington red zone. Facing fourth and goal from the Burlington five-yard line, Lawrence went to a play-action pass and quarterback Jacob Tamayo connected with Isaias Richards for the score. Baez cashed in the two-point conversion and the game was tied at 14.
Undeterred, the Devils’ offense mixed things up and Pena converted a third and seven with a 34-yard pass play to Jake McCauley to the 30-yard line. The two connected on the next play, a 30-yard pass down the right sideline for a touchdown. On the conversion, the two connected for the third straight play and the 22-14 lead.
After the offenses quieted and the teams exchanged punts, Lawrence scored a late second-quarter touchdown with Tamayo completing a 55-yard heave to Manny Lara for the TD. Baez powered in the conversion rush and the game was tied, 22-22.
The game turned defensive in the second half and a plethora of Lawrence penalties (22 on the day) led to field position in favor of the Devils, forcing a punt which eluded the Lawrence punter and went out of the end zone for a safety.
Burlington’s defense led by McCauley (seven solo tackles) and Matt Pinkham thwarted a slowed Lawrence offense which lost Tamayo, its QB, to an injury.
While the defense didn’t appear threatened throughout the second half, the offense needed to close the game out and late in the fourth quarter and did.
Burlington went back to the ground game. Hurley picked up 18 yards and Pena, converting a fourth and seven from the nine-yard line, went in for the score when he went to the sideline and stretched the ball over the pylon.
Despite the conversion being denied, the Devils defense flustered the Lancers on the final drive (aided by two more penalties) and closed the game out on a sack by Ray Magliozzi.
Burlington leaned on its senior quarterback who had arguably the best game of his high school career.
“We had faith in our offensive line and that keyed off Chris Jones,” said Pena when asked about his running success. “I made a few good throws today but the one to Jake for the touchdown was probably my best.”
Burlington (1-0) will host Woburn (1-0) this Friday. The kickoff has been moved up to 4:30 p.m. due to EEE and West Nile virus being detected in mosquitoes in Burlington back on Aug. 29. The earlier time is a precautionary move.