Meeting with his team just moments after last week's 35-14 loss to Byron, Burlington Central head coach Brian Melvin proclaimed to his players that they would bounce back with a victory over Hampshire in their home opener.
Melvin's belief in his squad proved to be well-founded, as the Rockets outplayed the Whip-Purs, but had to overcome 5 turnovers to secure a 29-20 nonconference win Friday night in front of an appreciative capacity crowd on Rocket Hill.
Central junior quarterback Johnny DiCostanzo threw for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns while the Rockets (1-1) racked up another 177 yards on the ground as they avenged last year's bitter 54-14 loss to Hampshire.
"The fact that we pulled out this game with five turnovers shows what kind of a team we have," Melvin said. "I'm so happy for our coaches, our players, the community. This was a big win, especially after what happened to us last year."
"All the coaches were confident in us and the players were confident in each other," said Rockets senior captain Nate Figurski, who rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries. "We knew our responsibilities and executed them and everything turned out great."
Central dominated the first half and held a 21-7 lead before the Whip-Purs capitalized on a pair of turnovers during a third quarter rally.
Hampshire quarterback Drew Dalby connected with Zachary Golden on a 22-yard touchdown pass then followed with another 80-yard scoring strike down the middle to Golden, his third TD reception of the game, to pull the Whips within 21-20. However, Sam Dossey blocked the extra point to keep the Rockets in front.
That proved to be crucial as Figurski's 35-yard scamper down the sideline set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from DiCostanzo to Matt Ganziano with 7:03 left in the game. Figurski ran for the 2-point conversion to make it a 2-score game at 29-20.
Hampshire drove down to the Rockets' 1 in the waning seconds, but Travis Schambach's third sack of the game seal the win. Nick Termini and Sam Esterly each collected a pair of sacks for the Rockets.
"We dug deep as a team in the second half, but we came up short," Golden said, as he also caught a 40-yard touchdown from Ben Corcelles in the second quarter for Hampshire. "We came out flat and made too many mistakes in the first quarter."
Termini, who gained 58 yards on 16 carries, put Central in front 7-0 with a 4-yard run and Ganziano extended the lead to 14-0 with a 28-yard touchdown scamper. Michael Kalusa's 26-yard touchdown reception capped the Rockets' first half scoring.