P.J. Jones set the tone.

D.J. Pugh came out of his shell with his best game yet.

And Taven Harris, well, was Taven Harris.

It all added up to the best performance of the season for the Burlington High School football team. And the 31-0 rout of Fort Madison on Friday night at Bracewell Stadium, well, it sure made for one happy Homecoming.

After displaying their moves on Friday night against Fort Madison, the Grayhounds will try to show their moves on the dance floor tonight at the Homecoming dance.

The Grayhounds played a near-flawless game in just the kind of performance it needed heading into next week's Class 4A District 5 opener on Sept. 21 against Davenport Central at Brady Street Stadium.

The Grayhounds were savoring every last second on this one, and rightly so.

"We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We weren't too worried about who was going to be the better team," said Pugh, who had 155 yards of total offense and accounted for two of the Grayhounds' four touchdowns. "We had our minds set on winning and competing. We didn't think we were going to blow them out of the water. We were just ready to come out and compete."

"I think we executed our game plan exactly the way we wanted," BHS coach Zach Shay said. "We're going to stick to our guns and run the football. We ran it right at them. We thought we could and we did that."

Fort Madison, after opening the season with a pair of impressive wins, has now been shut out in eight consecutive quarters.

"We just didn't play very well at all, offensively or defensively," Fort Madison coach Tony Shiffman said. "We didn't execute when we needed to. We just didn't play very well."

Jones set the tone early for BHS (2-2). Fort Madison (2-2) took the opening kickoff and marched to the BHS 31-yard line, where it faced a fourth-and-9. Quarterback Lennon Barker lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone for Parker Denning, but Jones timed his leap perfectly and knocked the football harmlessly to the turf.

"Defensively we were able to bring pressure and get after the quarterback and disrupt the passing game," Shay said. "We knew our secondary was going to be tested against a spread offense like that. For the most part we played good defense in the secondary."

BHS embarked on the first of its long drives on the night. The Grayhounds drove 70 yards in 11 plays, chewing 5 minutes, 53 seconds off the clock before Harris capped the drive. Harris took a handoff from Pugh, broke through a huge hole on the right side of the line and sprinted 19 yards for the score. Brock Dengler's extra-point kick gave the Grayhounds a quick 7-0 lead.

"Coming into the game I knew we were bigger. We wanted to just pound the ball. We knew they weren't as athletic as us, so we just went out there and pounded it, kept giving it to Tay (Harris)," said BHS senior right tackle Cody Newman. "We've been together since seventh grade, so it's always been, 'Come behind me and I'll get you there.'"

"That's part of our thing," Shay said. "You can load the box. We want to try to wear you down up front, keep moving the line of scrimmage and keep getting positive yards."

BHS broke the Bloodhounds' back, and will, in the second quarter. After Elias Cordero broke up a pass to thwart a Fort Madison drive, BHS drove 92 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 1-yard plunge by Pugh to go up 14-0. Harris lugged the ball 11 times for 83 yards on the drive.

"That drive seemed like it was eight to 10 minutes," Shay said. "That really changed the momentum of the game. Then you get the big pass play after that and obviously it was going to be hard for them to come back at that point."

"That's our game plan, just run it right down their throats," Pugh said.

The Grayhounds showed they can strike quick on their next possession. After Fort Madison went three-and-out in just 28 seconds late in the half, BHS took possession at its own 27. On the second play, Pugh hit Reece Wissinger in stride up the right sideline. Wissinger did the rest, outrunning two defensive backs to complete the 73-yard scoring play and put the Grayhounds up, 21-0, at halftime.

"It's just trusting my receivers, putting it up there knowing he'll go up and get it," Pugh said. "It felt amazing. It's one of the best feelings in the world."

"This was, to ma, by far his best game," Shay said of his junior signal caller. "He threw the ball much better and had the huge touchdown pass before halftime."

BHS put together a 10-play, 86-yard drive in the third quarter, culminating in a 25-yard field goal by Dengler.

Harris, who came into the game with 709 rushing yards through the first three games, churned out another 245 yards on 34 carries, adding the final score on a 5-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.

Harris now has 954 yards on 93 carries and has scored eight touchdowns. And the season isn't even half over.

"We knew he was going to be good," Shiffman said of Harris. "We have to figure out what kind of team we're going to be. Are we going to be the team that started off 2-0 or are we going to be the team that's gone 0-2 the last two weeks?"

"It's awesome," Newman said of blocking for Harris. "You can give him the biggest hole ever or the smallest hole ever and he'll just hit it. It's always great seeing him run past you and hearing the crowd cheer for him."

"It's amazing (watching Harris run)," Pugh said. "I love watching him run. He does things other guys can't do."

"It's amazing what he is doing right now," Shay said of Harris. "He's running hard. He didn't bust off a bunch of big runs. We just kept moving the chains. Time of possession was huge for us tonight."

Now, the Grayhounds hope to carry this momentum, and confidence, into next week's district opener.

"This is huge," Newman said. "This is going to give us momentum. We've got to keep going with a great week of practice and just keep it rolling."

"We are staying focused, staying hungry," Pugh said. "We're not letting up."

"I'm proud of our kids and proud of our staff," Shay said. "This is a big win for Burlington High School — Homecoming in front of a big crowd. Our crowd was the best it's been since I've been here. What an exciting night for the Grayhounds."


First downs;13;22


Passing yards;192;84


Total offense;228;435




3rd Down Efficiency;4-11;7-12

4th Down Efficiency;1-3;2-2

Time of possession;21:07;28:53

Scoring by quarters

Fort Madison;0;0;0;0;—;0



B—Taven Harris 19 run (Brock Dengler kick)

B—D.J. Pugh 1 run (Dengler kick)

B—Reece Wissinger 73 pass from Pugh (Dengler kick)

B—Dengler 25 FG

B—Harris 5 run (Dengler kick)

Individual statistics

RUSHING: Fort Madison — Calem MacLearn 1-44, Kali Maestro 12-38, Trey Kuntz 1-1, Lennon Barker 7-(-17). Burlington — Harris 34-245, Pugh 11-71, Mark Smith 7-40, P.J. Jones 1-0, K.T. Thompson 6-0.

PASSING: Fort Madison — Barker 16-28-0-157, Diego Lozano 1-1-0-35. Burlington — Pugh 2-3-0-84.

RECEIVING: Fort Madison — Parker Denning 4-68, Will Larson 1-39, Michael Mosena 4-31, Dominic Frantz 3-22, Kuntz 3-17, MacLearn 1-10, Quentin Schneider 1-5. Burlington — Wissinger 2-84.