Versatile Thomas propels Burlington Twp.

Posted: September 09, 2012

Senior Mike Thomas did a little bit of everything for the Burlington Township football team on Saturday.

He rushed for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass, placed two punts inside the Willingboro 5-yard line, and scored on an interception for the only touchdown of the first half.

But when the game was over, the first thing he wanted to talk about was his mistakes.

"On one of my catches, I went offsides. That's my fault," Thomas said, shaking his head.

His multifaceted game was part of the reason that the Falcons defeated Willingboro, 27-7, at Carl Lewis Stadium in a season-opening battle of favorites in the West Jersey Football League Patriot Division.

"If it was my first year playing, I'd feel the pressure, but I have experience playing since freshman year," Thomas said of having so many roles to fill for the Falcons. "It just comes to me when I get on the field."

Thomas even served as a play-caller on his receiving touchdown, when he changed the call at the line of scrimmage.

"The original call was a slant, but I audibled to my quarterback because the [defensive] back was pressed up on me and I felt I could jump up and get it," he said.

Displaying his athleticism, Thomas looked like a defensive back going up for the ball before wrestling it away from a defender.

Closer than the score indicated, the game was a real dogfight, demonstrating the intensity of the league rivalry. Burlington Township coach Tom Maderia didn't like that he had to play a conference game so early in the season, and called his team "fortunate" to come away with an important first conference win.

A turning point for the Falcons came when Maderia replaced junior quarterback Bobby Palentchar with sophomore Khalil Troutman. Palentchar went 5 for 12 in the first half for 45 yards, but on the first series of the third quarter, he threw an interception. Jalen Davis returned the ball 65 yards for a touchdown, giving the Chimeras much-needed momentum and tying the score.

The next time out on the field, the Falcons had a new quarterback, Troutman, who had already been in the game as a wide receiver.

"I thought Bobby was a little bit nervous. I thought in the third quarter he came out in the first series and he just wasn't throwing very well," Maderia said.

Troutman went on to rush for a touchdown and throw one to Thomas.

"It's kind of like in baseball, if the pitcher is having a rough day, you pull him out and put the relief pitcher in," Maderia said. "We are fortunate that we have two kids and are able to do that."

Willingboro quarterback Anthony Robbins, out much of last season with a broken wrist, was rusty in the first half and had difficulty getting settled. With Robbins still trying to gain his footing, the offense belonged to Robert Cleveland, who had 15 carries for 113 yards in the first half alone.

Listed at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, Cleveland put his head down and used his quick legs to make his way through a large Burlington Township defensive line. However, a leg cramp put him out of commission for most of the second half.

To Robbins' credit, he settled down in the second half but a lot of his passes were dropped by receivers, including a few that would have extended drives. Throughout the game, the Falcons had high pressure on him, with tight coverage in the secondary leaving few open looks.

Burlington Township   7 0 13 7 – 27

Willingboro   0 0 7 0 – 7

BT: Mike Thomas 13 interception return (Joe Pizzigoni kick)

W: Jalen Davis 65 interception return (Aaron Lynch kick)

BT: Thomas 4 rush (kick failed)

BT: Khalil Troutman 1 rush (Pizzigoni kick)

BT: Thomas 17 pass from Troutman (Pizzigoni kick)


Contact Kate Harman at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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