Elks reach goal of nine regular-season wins
CROWLEY - Before the season started, Burleson football coach Gary McElroy said the 2017 team was special.
The Elks proved that Friday night with a 30-20 District 9-5A finale win at Crowley that put Burleson alone in second place.
After falling behind 20-17 on the last play of the first half, Burleson scored 13 unanswered points to win the game.
Burleson (9-1, 6-1) will take on Mansfield Legacy (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Fort Worth’s Farrington Field in a Class 5A Division II Region II bi-district playoff game.
The Elks had a shot at a share of the district but district-champion Everman outlasted Centennial, 54-50.
“The boys said after we lost to Everman that that was it and we were going to end the regular season 9-1,” McElroy said. “I praised them for having that goal, sticking to it and seeing it through. I told them congratulations. We have been talking about being special and being 9-1 is special. According to some of the locals, a 9-1 regular season has never happened. This may be the first one.”
Crowley took a 20-17 lead into halftime when Eagles’ defensive back Jamaal Williams picked off a Jacob Amador pass and returned it 76 yards for a score.
The lead didn’t last long.
On the Elks’ opening drive of the second half, Devin Stevenson put the Elks up 23-20 thanks to a 17-yard touchdown run. Stevenson had a big night for Burleson, rushing for 107 yards on 21 carries.
“Devin Stevenson ran the ball extremely hard,” McElroy said. “It was mainly right up the middle. He did a great job of getting his shoulders low and fighting for tough yardage.”
According to McElroy, part of the running games success was due to the play of senior right tackle Matt Collier.
“Matt (Collier) had a great game,” McElroy said. “He’s that senior leader on the offensive line. He was physical up front and opened big holes.”
Burleson’s defense forced a punt on Crowley’s next drive thanks in part of back-to-back sacks by Ben Quirino and Carson Hallack.
In the fourth quarter, Amador hit Jaylen Johnson for a 78-yard touchdown strike that put the Elks up, 30-20. Johnson caught three passes for 105 yards.
The Elks’ defense stepped up again and delivered the final blow when nose guard Joey Balliviero made an acrobatic interception on a tipped pass.
“That ball tipped around off of three or four people and Joey comes out of nowhere and catches it,” McElroy said.
Burleson’s defense didn’t allow Crowley to score in the second half of the game, allowing the Elk offense room to complete the comeback.
“We came out in the second half and played well on both sides of the ball,” McElroy said. “The defense got a couple of turnovers and held them out of the end zone and the offense hit its stride and found a groove.”
Burleson was able to strike first when Blake Myers hit Jaden Dotson for a 39-yard score off a fake field goal. It marked the second score off a fake in as many games.
Crowley didn’t take long to respond when Krishton Greer scored on a three-yard run. The point-after kick was no good and Burleson led 7-6.
The Elks’ special teams got the lead back quickly when Caleb Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for the score and a 14-6 lead.
Burleson’s went up 17-6 on a 33-yard field goal by Edgar Lopez. The boot was setup by a leaping catch by Aden Anderson for a 40-yard gain. Anderson finished with three catches for 63 yards.
“Aden Anderson and Jaylon Johnson came up huge in the passing game,” McElroy said. “They made some great catches.”
Crowley quickly drove and scored on fourth down on a two-yard run by Greer.
“It was just a great team effort,” McElroy said. “These kids love playing together. They pick each other up. It’s been so much fun coaching these guys. I’m glad we are in the playoffs and just want to keep on rolling.”