By LARRY HENRY JR.

Correspondent

PALMYRA — The Glassboro Bulldogs aren’t going to rely on one player to lead the way offensively this season — just ask Zaivon Burt-Graves and Jonathan Sutton III.

Coach Tim Hagerty’s bunch improved to 2-0 after downing Palmyra 40-28 on Thursday night in a West Jersey Football League contest at Matt Curtis Stadium, a result that saw both Burt-Graves and Sutton deliver strong performances for the second consecutive week. The Bulldogs received a much tougher contest from the host Panthers than in last week’s 40-6 thumping of Lower Cape May Regional and had to rely on two of their offensive weapons to propel them to victory. 

“It was all about the resiliency of the group tonight,” Hagerty said. “Palmyra is a tough team and they made it very tough for us tonight, but our guys didn’t quit and kept pushing forward. I give them all the credit for sticking to the plan and they rewarded themselves tonight. Now it’s about taking that confidence into next week where we will take on a Middle Township team we don’t know much about.” 

After a scoreless first quarter that saw three turnover-on-downs, it was Glassboro that struck first midway through the second quarter. Burt-Graves — a 6-foot-, 140-pound junior back, broke free for a 72-yard scamper down the right side of the field and went untouched as the Bulldogs took an early lead they would not relinquish.

Palmyra hit back to make it 8-6 thanks to Kwinten Ives’ 20-yard touchdown run, but Glassboro added a pair of scores before halftime to take a 24-6 advantage into the break. 

Burt-Graves’ speed was on display thanks to a 75-yard kickoff return for a score before quarterback Jhaisir Harden connected with Sutton for a 39-yard hook-up after another Palmyra turnover on downs. 

“It’s not just one guy, or two guys, it’s the whole team,” Sutton said postgame. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we showed that tonight, even when things weren’t going our way. There are still some things to clean up before our next game, but overall we are happy to come here and pick up another win. It was our goal to do that.” 

“I am proud to be part of this team with this group of guys,” Burt-Graves said. “We worked together and got the job done as a unit. I was happy to see a lot of what we executed in practice translate over to tonight and, to be honest, I thought we could’ve scored more, even myself. It’s a learning lesson and now we move forward to try and make it 3-0 next week.” 

Just when Palmyra thought it could pull a bit closer, Glassboro once again delivered a punch back. Ives’ 48-yard catch-and-run with 9:39 remaining in the third quarter brought the Panthers to within 10 points, but it was Sutton who hit pay dirt on special teams. The versatile captain scooped up the ensuing kickoff and beat several Panthers players on his way to a 71-yard touchdown. 

Damon Bailey tossed a 28-yard score to Sadiq Cook with 4:02 to once again pull Palmyra to within 10 points, 32-22, but a Panthers error on an eventual punt by Glassboro on its next possession saw the Bulldogs recover the kick and score four plays later. Burt-Graves’ 30-yard touchdown — his third score of the night — extended Glassboro’s lead to 40-22 with 11 minutes to play. 

Despite a valiant effort from Ives’, who juked his way to a 56-yard receiving touchdown with 3:18 to play, the Bulldogs ran out the clock to breathe a major sigh of relief at the final whistle. 

“For a young group of players to not hang their heads at halftime and come back out to fight to the final whistle, I am proud of the guys,” Palmyra head coach Jack Giesel said. “We are a bit disappointed that we fell down as early as we did, but we didn’t pout. Credit to guys like Damon and Kwinten for providing a spark tonight and giving some of the guys belief in what we have here. Now we just have to try and carry this confidence into Bordentown next week.” 

The tandem of Burt-Graves and Sutton totaled 295 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns between them, headlining the Bulldogs on both offense and special teams. Ives led Palmyra with 216 yards and three total touchdowns on offense, while Bailey tossed for 244 yards and three scores himself on 12-of-20 passing. 

Glassboro (2-0) returns home for a Sept. 17 showdown with Middle Township while Palmyra (0-2) travels to Bordentown on the same night. The Bulldogs will be confident in themselves to keep their unbeaten run going, and with two star players like Burt-Graves and Sutton leading the way, the sky’s the limit for something special this fall. 

“Those two guys are special players,” Hagerty said. “John Sutton is one of our leaders and hasn’t backed down to new positions we have tried him at this summer. He does a lot for the team and is always there for a spark. Zavion is our go-to guy and again is a talented player when you put the ball in his hands. The key is trying to get him into space and, like you saw tonight, he can really frustrate an opposing team.”

Larry Henry Jr. is a Burlington County correspondent for Glory Days Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @lhenry019