When Hampshire threatened, Burlington Central answered quickly.
After the Whip-Purs cut the Rockets' lead to 20-14 in the third quarter, Central responded with a 3-play, 67-yard drive capped by Ryan Ritchie's 43-yard bomb to Zach Ranney. The 2-point conversion made it 28-14 and the Rockets could breathe a little easier on their way to a 36-22 nonconference victory in Hampshire Friday night.
Joel Bouagnon ran for 132 yards and 2 scores, and Al Willett scored on a run and a fumble return for the Rockets.
Chase Lundry had 89 rushing yards, a touchdown, and a key fumble recovery for the Whip-Purs, who rallied after falling behind 20-0.
Both quarterbacks, Ritchie and the Whips' Kyle Anderson, struggled early, but both eventually found their rhythm. Ritchie completed 3 straight passes on the critical second-half drive and finished 7-for-18 for 86 yards.
Anderson completed just 2 of his first 9 attempts. But he connected on his last 4 efforts, the last being a 44-yard scoring strike to Brendan Waterworth. He finished 6-of-13 for 111 yards.
Bouagnon's 68-yard scoring run got the Rockets going. Willett's fumble return on the next series and his 4-yard run made it 20-0 and it was starting to look like a rout.
But then Lundry shook a tackle and broke free for a 48-yard touchdown just before halftime. After the break, Lundry recovered a Rockets' fumble in their territory. Six plays later, Antonacci bowled in from 2 yards out to make it 20-14.
But the Rockets responded immediately.
"We knew after they scored that the game's not over," said Bouanon. "We've still got time to play. We've got to turn it around now."
"Momentum's a son of a gun in high school football," said Rockets' coach Rich Crabel. "They got the score and just got us on our heels a little bit, and our kids responded well."
Hampshire coach Dan Cavanaugh, whose team will compete in the Fox Valley Conference this season, obviously wasn't happy that the Whips dug themselves an early hole, but appreciated the way they fought back.
"You can's spot anybody 20-0 your first game out of the box, especially a good-quality team," he said. "We got a little bit of the jitters out and came back and played hard. We got better as the game went on."
With the second-half passing attack, the Rockets served notice that they are not going to be a one-dimensional team.
"We used to be mainly a running team," said Bouagnon. "Now all weapons are go."
In many ways, it was a typical season opener. The teams combined for 135 penalty yards.