LAWNDALE — Opening games in football, especially for younger ages, is always an adventure.
Besides the matter of executing blocks and tackles out of basic offensive and defensive sets, there’s the little matter of how youngsters will respond to the pace of play and getting hit hard for the first time.
Those were some of the issues the Shelby and Burns middle school football squads fenced with in their season opener Wednesday at Ron Greene Stadium. The visiting Blue Devils came away with a 19-6 win over their county rivals.
Both sides had their struggles. The Blue Devils kept the football near the Burns goal line throughout, but stalled several times in the red zone. The host Burns Eagles were left with difficult field position as a result.
Burns’ deepest offensive penetration in the first half came after the opening kickoff. Ben Mauney had a pair of pass completions to Ryan Thompson in a drive reaching the Shelby 15. Luis Bravo’s attempt at a 31-yard field was returned by Shelby’s Justin Mickles to near midfield.
The Blue Devils responded with a methodical march to go ahead. Luke Williams found Marquis Adams for a 34-yard scoring pass with 59.5 seconds left in the quarter. Cade Ledbetter’s kick put Shelby up 7-0.
That score would hold up through halftime. Shelby fumbled the football away at the goal line once, with Dashawn Jones recovering for Burns. Another drive ended with a turnover at the 11 with Jackson Bivins pouncing on the football.
The Blue Devils also reached the 18 in the final minute of the half but threw three straight incompletions.
Shelby drove 50 yards to score again on its first series of the second half. The Devils had to overcome a pair of penalties but got a 14-yard touchdown run by Adams with 4:08 left for a 13-0 advantage.
Burns’ continued to have offensive difficulties and Shelby took over at the Burns 24 in the fourth period. The Blue Devils stuck in an insurance score as Adams circled right end on a 10-yard run to make it 19-0.
The Eagles scored on the game’s final play. Mauney threw to Thompson in the right flats, but he cut back all the way across the field on a 27-yard romp for the final margin.
Burns welcomes West Lincoln next week. Shelby is idle until Sept. 27, when it goes to East Rutherford.