With 25 seconds remaining in the Mid-Suburban League West contest between Conant and visiting Barrington on Friday night, Conant receiver Tim Manczko leaped above a Broncos defender to pull down a touchdown pass from Danny Modelski that proved to be decisive in a 41-36 Conant win.
As exciting as that was, how the game got to that point was even more electric.
Less than a minute before Manczko's magnificent catch, Barrington quarterback Daniel Kubiuk connected with receiver Andrew Matella for a 45-yard gain on fourth-and-9 to put the Broncos (3-6, 1-4) at Conant's 1-yard-line.
Kubiuk dove in for a score on the next play, setting up the opportunity to kick an extra point to tie, or go for the 2-point conversion for the lead.
Barrington opted to go for two, and Kubiuk found receiver Barrett O'Farrell wide open in the end zone on a beautifully executed pass to give the Broncos a 1-point lead.
The play was basically everyone goes right, and O'Farrell goes left. There wasn't a Conant defender within 10 yards of him when the ball left Kubiuk's hand.
Conant (6-3, 3-2) needed a miracle play of its own to set up Manzcko's touchdown catch.
Two plays before the deciding reception, Modelski heaved a pass intended for receiver Elias Gardner. It looked to be a sure interception. Instead, the ball went through the Barrington defender's hands and found Gardner in stride. He raced deep into Barrington territory with a 44-yard gain.
"I thought it was intercepted," Modelski said. "I thought I threw a pick, and I put my head down, but I saw the ball go up. Gardner has caught about three tipped touchdowns already. He just sits there and catches the ball and keeps running. I was so happy."
Modelski put together an eye-popping stat line: 25-of-46 for 417 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Gardener (6 catches, 134 yards, one touchdown), Mike Kos (6 catches, 101 yards, one touchdown) and Manczko (5 catches, 80 yards, 2 touchdowns) were his favorite targets.
After going down 36-35 following Barrington's two-point conversion, the Cougars did not panic.
Conant does not huddle at all during the game, basically running a constant two-minute drill. Nothing changed for the Cougars on their final drive.
"We're very comfortable in our offensive structure," Manczko said. "It's spread formations, and we really like to throw the ball. We're very comfortable with it, and very comfortable with the two-minute drill."
Conant running back Jacobi Sims gained 112 yards on 27 carries and also scored a touchdown. The Cougars totaled 539 yards of offense.
"I was telling the kids that we try to figure out ways to lose games, but we still win," Conant coach Bill Modelski said with a smile.
Kubiuk completed 15-of-26 passes for 214 yards. He also ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Matella caught 6 passes for 115 yards with a touchdown.
"I would like to say how proud I am of the coaches and of our players," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "What a great group this was. We are going to miss them. It's just a great group of kids."
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