The Burlington Seahorses quickly gained Essex's attention with a game-opening touchdown drive and the Hornets responded with a Joey Robertson-driven offense en route to their fifth straight win, 36-18, Friday night at Buck Hard Field.
The Seahorses' Max Moreau dashed 37 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage, sending Burlington toward Shaquane Cooperwood's 1-yard touchdown plunge nine plays later for a 6-0 lead.
By the time Burlington scored again, the Hornets had put up 36 straight points with a diversified offense and an opportunistic defense highlighted by Brendan Gleason's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"Coach (Brennan) Carney had those 'Horses revved up and ready to go and we didn't get off the bus too well right there," said Essex coach Charlie Burnett. "They got us on a couple of counters and it took us a while to settle down.
"That's a tough club across the way. They were very physical and we were outsized," Burnett said. "The score ended up in our favor but that wasn't because it wasn't a battle play in and play out."
Ultimately, with Robertson the focal point of an attack supplemented by Gleason and Cody Greene, the Hornets were too strong offensively. Robertson was 6-for-8 passing for 68 yards and a 22-yard TD pass to Greene. He also carried the ball 22 times for 74 yards and a 7-yard touchdown run.
"He's just such a tough competitor," Burnett said of Robertson. "He doesn't mind being tackled a bunch of times or dropping back and throwing the ball around. He's just a gamer."
Gleason picked up 35 yards rushing and went 2-for-2 passing with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Greene, who pulled in four passes for the two touchdowns and 67 yards.
Burlington held the 6-0 lead through the first period. Philip Wilson tied the score with his 6-yard TD run at 10:57 of the second and the Hornets took the 7-6 lead on the first of Zach Falls' four point-after kicks.
With 2:09 left in the first half, Greene pulled in his first score from Robertson and the Hornets took a 14-6 lead that held up through a scoreless third period.
That's when Essex (5-2) began piling up points in a hurry. Gleason threw to Greene for a 5-yard TD at 9:58 and Robertson made the Seahorses (2-4) pay for a fourth-and-6 failure to convert at the BHS 24 with a 7-yard run at 8:26.
Following a BHS fumble into its own end zone for an Essex safety, Gleason picked off a pass and sprinted down the left sideline for his touchdown.
Burlington finished the scoring with Peter Labracio throwing 31 yards to Moreau at 3:02 and Cooperwood plowed in from the 1 with 9.3 seconds remaining.