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You don't always see their names in a game recap story or the box score, but there are players who make a difference in games in ways that don't always wind up in the game stats. Burlington Central's Casey Matthews' 2 rushing touchdowns and 1 passing touchdown helped the Rockets defeat the Marengo Indians 27-0 for their first Big Northern East Conference win of the season Friday night at Rocket Hill.
But fellow Rocket senior Jeremy Esin's performance might have been just as critical to the victory. Esin's third-down sack early in the third quarter helped preserve a 13-0 lead, and he leveled a linebacker for the final block that sprung Matthews for a 70-yard touchdown run to seal the victory midway through the fourth quarter.
"We really wanted to try to get more sacks and put pressure on them," Esin said. "We had some things we needed to clean up. We talked about the sudden change of possession and we didn't want to let them score there, so we could score again and keep the momentum going our way."
Matthews got the Rockets going early in the second quarter on a 49-yard run. The Rockets increased the score to 13-0 when Reilly Marino scored from 28 yards out on fourth-and-3 just under two minutes later.
"We always try to get on the board early," Matthews said. "Recently, we haven't been able to, but when we're able to put points up early, it helps us keep our heads up and keep going."
Trailing 13-0 to start the third quarter, Marengo appeared to get a break when the Rockets' short punt set the Indians up on the BC 35-yard line. Facing third-and-8 from the 12, Esin broke through from his defensive tackle position to sack Marengo quarterback Zack Knoblock for a 9-yard loss. The Indians attempted a 38-yard field goal, but it was blocked and the score remained 13-0.
Matthews hit Kyle Coffland for a 26-yard pass with the third quarter coming to an end to put the Rockets ahead 19-0, and then broke off a 70-yard run with the help of Esin's block that turned what could have been a 5-yard run into a sprint for the end zone.
"We wanted to focus on setting our blocks and to stop shooting ourselves in the foot by getting penalties," Esin said.
Rockets head coach Rich Crabel praised the effort the 5-foot, 6-inch Esin continues to turn in each week at his defensive tackle position.
"He's (Esin) one of our seniors and has been in our program forever," Crabel said. "Most people we say, 'coach, how can you put him in your defensive tackle spot,' but the kid just has a great motor and works his rear off in practice. He knows what to do, and knows where he needs to be — sometimes he'll get overmatched, but you're never going to stop his effort."
Burlington Central's (2-4, 1-0) defense limited Marengo (0-6, 0-4) to 105 total yards in the game. Crabel praised both the offensive and defensive units for their execution as the Rockets staved off playoff elimination.
"We moved the ball better and fared a little bit better tonight than we have the past few games," Crabel said. "If we take care of the ball, our defense seems to play well. We made a couple of nice stops defensively tonight that put them in a bad spot."