BNEWS Sports

Red Devils Football Have Heartbreaking Ending to Post-Season

The Burlington Red Devil football team were inches from scoring a touchdown that would have tied them against Tewksbury Memorial in the final seconds of the Elite Eight playoff game on Friday, but a fumble at the goal line cost the Devils the game — and their season — with a 21-28 loss.  It was a devastating loss for the Burlington team, who were competing in their first playoffs since 2015. Despite the crushing loss, it was a remarkable season for the team under second-year head coach George Balian, who commended the team for performance. “Never quit,” Balian said. “We preached it all year long, you fight and you battle and that’s what this team did, they never quit.”  Starting off on offense, the Devils scored first, with senior and running back Joey Poland ending a four-play drive with a 21-yard touchdown. The score was 7-0 after the successful extra point from senior kicker Josh Pupa. On defense, the Devils didn’t let Tewksbury even the score, stopping the team on a fourth-and goal from the 5-yard line, ending an eight-play drive. Burlington punted back to the Redmen after a three-and-out on their next possession. But on their next possession, Tewksbury tied the score with a 20-yard touchdown pass from junior and quarterback Vincent Ciancio to senior and wide receiver Kenny Nguyen. The score was 7-7. On the next play, Redmen defenseman and junior Anthony Montiero sacked Burlington quarterback Anthony Gerrior, forcing the Devils’ special teams to punt the ball back to Tewksbury. It didn’t take long for the Redmen to score again as senior and running back Hunter Johnson ended the four-play drive with a 11-yard touchdown, taking the lead 14-7 after the extra point.  Just before the second quarter came to a close, the Devils were able to tie the game up 14-14, with Poland ending a 13-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown.  Going into the third quarter, Tewksbury took their time with an 11-play drive, but Burlington couldn’t stop them from scoring again as running back Johnson ran in an 11-yard touchdown. Burlington was now down 21-14 after the extra point, but that didn’t last long: Gerrior sent a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior and wide receiver Jack Tzovaras, ending a four-play drive and tying the game 21-21.  Burlington’s Pupa tried to take the lead in the fourth quarter with a 23-yard field goal attempt, but the ball went well over his head, giving the Redmen an opening. Tewksbury broke the tie after a 10-play drive, with Ciancio throwing to senior and wide receiver Cam Kearney, giving the Tewksbury team a 28-21 after the extra point.

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Senior and wide receiver Jack Tzovaras catches a touchdown pass from junior and quarterback Anthony Gerrior

Back on offense, the Devils had a final chance to tie the score and send the game into overtime. They marched down the field and set themselves up in scoring position on a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Senior and lineman Charlie Andriolo snapped the ball, but Gerrior fumbled, giving Tewksbury and opening and ending the Devils’ chances of a comeback.  Burlington did not go down without a fight even in the final seconds of the game, a message drilled into them by head coach Balian. “He just loves us and we love him,” Poland said. “He came in as a new coach a year ago and we weren’t supposed to make it this far or make the playoffs. He is a great leader and he loves us.”  “We knew we were going to be a decent football team,” Gerrior said. “Everyone is more serious this year overall and Coach Balian has done a great job with that.”  Eleven seniors will be departing from the team, playing their final game on Thanksgiving Day at home against the Bedford Buccaneers.   “Last game as a senior for me,” Poland said. ” I know all the other seniors are really happy about it and we all love each other.”  Gerrior will be returning to the gridiron next year as a senior.  The seniors departing the team this year are Charlie Andriolo, Kevin Conte, Jack Joyce, Alex Mayanja, Haris Mukanga, Bobby Nevola, Joey Poland, Josh Pupa, Don Tequia, Jack Tzovaras and Liam Welch. We wish them all the best of luck in their futures.