BURLINGTON -- Anthony Cruz blocked a point-after attempt and returned a punt 83 yards early in the fourth quarter to give the Burlington Red Devils an edge, in knocking off previously undefeated Melrose, 21-20.
“I knew we needed something big,” said Cruz of his team. “So I thought what better thing could I do than get a nice punt return, get the team up.”
Cruz scored with 10:38 left in the fourth quarter, so if Burlington was going to have a chance to strike, they would have to do it quick.
Taking the ball from their own 31, Melrose suffered a setback in a holding penalty then three plays before they were forced to punt. This time, the ball went to Jonathan Dube who returned the kick about 25 yards and across the 50 to the Melrose 49. Junior running back Marcus Odiah carried the ball down to the 32, but a holding call on the next play brought it back to the 40.
Senior captain Kyle Shields took the next handoff from quarterback Shane Farley and brought it past the plane, tying the game up 20-20 with 7:36 left in the game. An offsides penalty by Melrose brought the ball to the 1-1/2 yard line, and kicker Chris Arria booted the point after to put the Red Devils ahead, sealing the win.
“Man Up”: Even after Burlington went ahead, Melrose had two opportunities to score. The first an unfruitful drive that was stymied by the “man up” defensive mode that Burlington switched into in the second half.
“We had a little attitude adjustment at halftime,” said Burlington coach Shawn Maguire. “We wanted everyone to just man up on their own and be accountable for themselves.”
With multiple threats on offense, Melrose put on long, sustained drives in the first half, but after taking a gut check, Burlington slowed down the offensive attack to a crawl. “We were where we should have been sometimes but we just weren’t tackling. When you are where you should be, you should make the tackle.”
Lightning Strikes Twice: With 36.8 seconds left in the second quarter, after Melrose’s Bryan Reale scored his third rushing touchdown of the night, lightning struck in the area and the game was put on a 30-minute delay. After that delay, the ball was given to an official as another bolt struck near the field, causing a second 30-minute delay.
“I’ll take it as long as I can, if that’s what did it,” said McGuire.
A Little Extra is Required: The term "extra point" is not optional in Burlington football, it is needed. "It's not an extra point, that's necessary," added McGuire. "That's a winning point right there. We stress those little things all the time. We work on our special teams and kicking extra points [in practice]."
Strong, Silent Type: Anthony Cruz is a playmaker. He blocked an early point after attempt which sealed the win for his team, ran the 83 yard punt return for a touchdown, but per his usual cool, he didn't say much before performing his duties.
"I'm not really that loud in the locker room," said Cruz. "I try to lead by example."
BURLINGTON 21, MELROSE 20
MEL (5-1) 7 13 0 0 --- 20
BUR (4-2) 0 7 0 14 --- 21
M – Bryan Reale 1 run (Matthew DeSimone kick)
M – Reale 5 run (kick blocked)
B – Shane Farley 4 run (Chris Arria kick)
M – Reale 16 run (DeSimone kick)
B – Anthony Cruz 83 punt return (Arria kick)
B – Kyle Shields 40 run (Arria kick)