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Running back Rodney Vines shows his speed, and toughness, for Burlington Township

On Saturday against Highland, Vines scored the game's decisive touchdown on a 60-yard burst in the second quarter.

Rodney Vines runs the ball against Highland last weekend.
Rodney Vines runs the ball against Highland last weekend.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

He's known for flash and speed, but Rodney Vines was out to show a packed crowd that there are multiple facets to his game.

"Just because I'm small doesn't mean I'm going to allow anybody just to throw me down," said Burlington Township's  5-foot-8, 165-pound running back. "I just feel like I have that mindset where I can't let no one touch me."

Saturday afternoon on a muddy track at home against Highland, the  junior scored the game's decisive touchdown, a 60-yard burst in the second quarter that gave the Falcons a lead they never lost.

On that play, Vines showed his trademark speed, a weapon that makes him one of South Jersey's most dangerous players.

“We just have to keep pushing. We know we’re not going to let anything stop us.” — Rodney Vines

But his biggest moments came in the guts of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, with his team clinging to a one-point lead, Vines made a 30-yard run that ended with him dragging defenders clutching his ankles.

It was a sign of his resilience — he overcame a lost fumble earlier in the game — and of what Vines brings to the Burlington Township offense.

"He's got the ability when he gets in the secondary to make a big play every time," said head coach Tom Maderia, whose Falcons defeated Highland, 14-13, in a battle of undefeated divisional rivals. The win guaranteed Burlington Township a share of the West Jersey Football League Liberty Division title.

For Vines, it was further proof that he's back where he belongs.

He spent his first two seasons at Camden Catholic and was set to lead the backfield for the Irish this season before a racial bias scandal hit the school in the spring, resulting in a wave of transfers out of the football program. The school was accused of firing coach Nick Strom for having too many black players on the team.

Several of those players, including Vines and star receiver Tyrese Ware, landed in Burlington Township.

The transition has been seamless, which is no surprise to those familiar with the players' history in the town.

"I've actually been playing with these guys my whole life, since I was 5 years old," said Vines, who grew up in Burlington Township. "To me, coming to play for this team felt like coming home."

Vines has seen more work recently with fellow star running back Semi Robertson nursing a minor ankle injury.

Vines finished the game against Highland with 12 carries for 137 yards, his second straight game with more than 100 yards rushing. He has 465 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 50 carries.

"I'm out here playing for my teammates," Vines said. "I want to do it for them."

At 7-0, Burlington Township is off to its best start in recent memory. Before Saturday's game, Burlington Township honored its state championship teams from 1976  and 1977.

For Vines, it was a source of further inspiration. He has visions of making his own history at Burlington Township, of leaving his own mark on a hometown that he's proud to represent.

"I knew my family was on this team. I know we can get the job done," Vines said. "We just have to keep pushing. We know we're not going to let anything stop us."