READING — A mixture of cheers, applause, and the lyrics of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” blasted out of the Reading locker room after its 22-15 win over Burlington Friday night.
Both teams scored on their first drives but this one came down to the final seconds of the game.
After Chris Arria drilled a 36-yard field goal to give the Red Devils a 15-14 lead late in the fourth quarter, Reading had four minutes to put together one final scoring drive.
Reading wide receiver Jared Barros returned the ensuing kickoff to Burlington’s 47-yard line, allowing the Rockets to control the clock and get into the end zone. The eight-play drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown run by Drew Belcher took three minutes off the clock, leaving Burlington with less than a minute to pull off a comeback.
“Great kickoff return; short field so we were able to capitalize on it,” said Rockets coach John Fiore. “We had plenty of time and all our timeouts left so we were able to go and run the ball. Drew made a great read down at the goal-line.”
Belcher admitted that they’ve worked on that final drive many times in practice so he was confident leading the team down field. The third-year quarterback anchored the offense, completing 9 of his 12 passes. And even when Reading was on defense, Belcher was on the sideline trying to motivate his team.
“As a team everyone did their job on that drive,” Belcher said. “The O-line was great the whole time, Alex Valente was great that whole drive, and we just ended up making a play and scoring a touchdown.”
Reading did exactly what it planned to do — contain Marcus O’Diah. The versatile running back was held to just 20 yards in the first half. He eventually scored an 11-yard run in the the third quarter but finished the night with 66 yards on 19 carries — his lowest total of the year.
The Rockets defense, which hadn’t been scored on all season, gave up a 42-yard touchdown on the Red Devils’ first drive. From there, it was all about the Rockets’ physicality and dominance in the trenches. However, the Red Devils kept the game close.
“We matched them toe-to-toe,” said Burlington coach Shawn Maguire. “This is a defense that no one has scored off and we had three scoring drives. Says a lot about our offense and defensive lines.”
Burlington (4-1) put together several great drives, but the one they really needed ended with Jimmy Goober throwing an interception.
Reading (5-0) was excited about the win but they know they must turn the page immediately.
“Great night for us tonight in terms of our attitude and in terms of our execution,” Fiore said. “We have to keep making progress as we go forward. Going to enjoy this for another couple of hours and then we’ve got to get back at it. We have a tough Lexington team coming here next week.”