Burgess leads Johnston to win over Coventry

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The past two weeks have been outstanding for Elijah Burgess and the Johnston football team, as they followed up their 40-19 non-league victory over Division I Woonsocket with a 28-6 win over Coventry at Polisena Stadium in Johnston, earning the Panthers their first Division II-A win as league play began last Friday night across the state.

Burgess continued to put up big numbers, scoring four touchdowns while rushing 16 times for 108 yards. He also recovered three fumbles, tallied a 2-point conversion and made some good hits on defense.

He would account for 26 of the Panthers’ 28 points.

“We had a better week of practice and worked harder and had some better conditioning,” Burgess said. “We were focused and our offensive line did better and the defense was great tonight.”

The Johnston senior co-captain ran for 155 yards and four touchdowns the previous week in the Panthers’ non-league win at Woonsocket’s Barry Field. He stated that the last two weeks have been very productive in practice.

“We try to push everyone at practice, and in the second half tonight we pulled it all together and worked as a team,” Burgess said. “The line is making bigger holes for me to run, and the whole offensive line are working hard on the sled in practice.”

The Panthers’ James Cardenas pinned the Knotty Oakers at their own 15 with a good punt. Burgess would recover a blocked punt at the Coventry 12-yard line and would score the first points of the game with a 12-yard run. Bianca Robbins hit the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 10:59 left in the first half.

Coventry would get its lone score of the night on a William Turner to Jordan Hill 25-yard touchdown pass, making it 7-6 with 1:25 left before intermission.

The Panthers took that one-point lead into the half and would come out strong in the second half.

A Burgess 8-yard touchdown made it 13-6 as he plunged into the end zone. Burgess would score 12 seconds later after a bad Coventry snap went into the end zone as he alertly pounced on it for six points. He would then proceed to run in the 2-point conversion for a 21-6 JHS lead.

James Baccala downed a Johnston punt at the Coventry 5-yard line, where the Oakers eventually would turn the ball over to the Panthers on downs.

A 15-yard Burgess touchdown run was called back because of a penalty, but he was not to be denied later in the fourth quarter as he scored his fourth touchdown of the game from two yards out.

Robbins, who is one of the best girls’ soccer players in the state, was perfect on her extra point attempt as Johnston took a 22-point lead.

“We are blocking better and clicking on all cylinders,” said Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo. “We are getting a little better each week and playing at a faster pace. We still have to get back to our full speed practices and work on some conditioning. The special teams played a big part in tonight’s game, they all played well. It was good to see Bianca Robbins made those extra points. We have not had a kicker in a while. I am looking forward to seeing how much better we can get week after week as a team.”

The Panthers will play another Division I team in Cranston West at Cranston Stadium tomorrow night. The non-league game will kick off at 7 p.m. The Falcons won their league opener over Central, 42-6.

“We will enjoy this game tonight and put it in our back pocket,” Acciardo said. “Cranston West is a good team and are well-coached. We will have our hands full.”

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