The Burlington Central football team had the components for a win Friday night at Woodstock North -- an offense that moved the ball and a defense that came up with big plays.
Penalties, a factor that the Rockets had held in check for the first six games of the season, impacted decisive plays in a 22-16 loss to the Thunder in a Kishwaukee River Conference game.
"Holy cow, we had more penalties called on us tonight than all year combined," said Central coach Brian Melvin. "We had two touchdowns called back. We had an interception that would have sealed the game called back."
Officials whistled the Rockets for 12 penalties for a total of 110 yards,
A defensive play set up Central's first touchdown. On North's first play of the game, Rocket defensive back Matthew Termini recovered Matt Zinnen's fumble. The Rockets marched 60 yards down the field and scored on a 32-yard Dionte Pierre run (104 yards in 15 carries) at the 8:06 mark of the first quarter.
North responded with its own scoring drive covering 69 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 3-yard run by Chris Flores, 5 minutes into the second quarter.
On Central's next possession, James Fay ran 60 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back on a Rocket penalty. The drive ended with a punt.
Stalling at the Rockets' 15-yard line late in the second quarter, the Thunder attempted a field goal. After blocking the kick, Central's Nathan Figurski recovered the ball and returned it 85 yards for a Rocket score. The TD with 1:12 left in the quarter gave Central a 14-7 halftime lead.
North (5-2, 3-2) wasted no time tying the game in the third quarter, scoring on a 57-yard run by Zinnen 2 minutes into the second half.
After attempting only 3 passes with 1 completion in the first half, the Rockets went to the air in the third quarter. Central (1-6, 1-3) quarterback Johnny DiConstanzo completed 6 of 11 attempts for 87 yards in the second half.
"Johnny DiConstanzo played his best varsity football game of this year tonight," Melvin said. "He led the offense and they did great. It was the penalties that killed us."
Two completions in the Rockets' first drive of the third quarter helped put Central at North's 11-yard line. Facing fourth down, the Rockets tried to score on a fake field goal attempt. Holder Cole Perry flipped the ball to Fay, whose pass attempt was broken up.
The Rockets went ahead later in the quarter on a safety. After a Fay punt put the Thunder at their own 1-yard line, Brett Lopez sacked Zinnen in the end zone.
Central led 16-14 starting the fourth quarter
On the Thunder's first possession of the last quarter and facing a third-and-9 at the Rockets' 27-yard line, Zinnen opted to pass. Carlos Esparza picked it off but the play was invalidated by a Rocket foul. Three plays later, Casey Dycus scored the go-ahead TD on a 2-yard run.