Burlington Central on verge of being playoff eligible
Burlington Central's defense played like it was on a mission against visiting Marengo Friday.
And though "the offense was a little late to the party," as senior linebacker Ryan Doubek termed it, all the Rockets eventually joined in the fun of a 27-7 Kishwaukee River Conference win on Senior Night.
Burlington Central (4-4, 2-3) limited Marengo (2-6, 1-4) to 127 total yards on 36 plays. The Indians, who managed only 24 total yards in the first half, finally broke though for a touchdown with 1:03 left in the game.
"I think we did decent," Doubek said. "I'm pretty sure we could have done better. We hit our gaps this game, finally, and we actually played as a unit."
The win gets Central within a game of playoff eligibility. With a victory next week at Harvard (0-8, 0-5), the Rockets will likely get into the 256-team postseason field for the first time since coach Rich Crabel led them to a 6-4 finish in 2014.
"When I took over this program they were 1-8 and we have a chance next week to qualify for the playoffs in a matter of a year and a half," second-year coach Brian Melvin said. "So in two seasons we've turned this program around and we're really happy. We've got to finish next week."
Restoring the school's playoff tradition was on the minds of the players after last week's loss 17-7 loss to Woodstock North made them face elimination square in the face.
"When I came here everybody used to preach to me that Central used to be a winning school and we kind of stumbled in that tradition," said senior running back Nick Termini, who carried 14 times for 88 yards. "That was the mission, to bring back the tradition of being known in the area as a winning program. I think we're going in the right direction and I'm just happy to be a part of it. It's exciting. It's really exciting."
The first half wasn't too exciting for fans of offense. Sophomore kicker Andrew Solomon's 28-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter stood as the only points scored until just before halftime.
After Central returned a short punt to the Marengo 19-yard line, the Rockets need 7 plays to cross the goal line.
Melvin took his final timeout of the half with 24 seconds left and the ball at the 2. He called two plays. The first, a dive, went nowhere. After both teams scrambled to get set in time, sophomore quarterback Ryan Lenschow rolled to his right and took it in himself, though he absorbed a big hit as he crossed the goal line.
"Yeah, but I can take it," said Lenschow, who completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for 168 yards.
The Rockets opened their lead after halftime. After the defense forced one of Marengo's 6 punts, Lenschow threw a short pass to senior Dejsani Beamon. He beat a defender and raced 38 yards down the sideline for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
Lenschow capped his night by heaving an 80-yard bomb to senior Michael Kalusa early in the fourth quarter.
"It's a good feeling," Lenschow said of being in position to make the playoffs. "It's good to do it for the seniors. Happy to see them get a win."