Both No. 9 New Trier and No. 8 Conant entered Saturday's Class 8A playoff game sporting powerful offenses coming off shootout victories in the final week of the regular season.
Scoreboard operator's delight, right?
Defense was the story, and Conant's was more opportunistic in a 14-0 victory.
"We've been outscoring people," Conant coach Bill Modelski said. "We really haven't been stopping people. We've really only had a couple of games this year where the defense has really won the game for us."
Add a first-round playoff victory, Conant's first playoff win since 2003, to the list of game's Conant's defense has won.
Not only did the Cougars (7-3) not allow a point, defensive back Tim Manczko -- who also plays wide receiver -- returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Manczko was in man coverage on New Trier (6-4) receiver Devin Boehm (10 catches, 72 yards) on the play. Trevians quarterback Nick Hendricks (21-of-33, 155 yards) rolled out of the pocket and threw toward Boehm. Manczko said there was a little bit of daylight there, which must have been what Hendricks saw.
"I just got a good break on the ball, and intercepted it," Manczko said. "Then I just cut it back for a touchdown."
That stood as the game's lone score until Conant running back Bryson Brown (15 carries, 84 yards) scored from 6 yards out with 5:50 remaining in the game. Brown replaced running back Jacobi Sims, who left in the first quarter with an injury.
Asked if he expected his interception return for touchdown to be the only score of the game heading into the fourth quarter, Manczko said, "No, I did not. We really thought our offense could be more productive than it was. But that's not how the night went. Our defense was really, really great tonight."
Before Brown's touchdown run iced the victory, Conant's defense needed another big play to preserve its lead.
New Trier faced third-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter when a deflected pass was intercepted by linebacker Joe Faso. He returned it from his own goal line to the Cougars' 31, which set up the drive that resulted in Brown's score.
"I wanted that ball," Faso said. "We had to make that stop to win the game. We came up big when we had to."
Conant's defense registered 3 sacks in the game, two by linebacker Mike Kos, and one by linebacker Troy Piccinini. The Cougars held New Trier to 232 yards of offense.
"It's a big thing for us," Faso said of Conant winning a playoff game for the first time since 2003. "Last year we lost in the playoffs. It was a pretty big deal. We wanted to get this win to bring one back for everybody. I've been thinking about that. We've been wanting that since we were growing up watching. We always wanted a playoff victory. It means a lot to the school to bring one back."
New Trier's defense was excellent as well, holding Conant to 215 yards of offense.
"I wish we were able to create more takeaways today," New Trier coach Dan Starkey said. "I think we played pretty well and took away a lot of their stuff. I know they've scored a lot of points this year. To really hold them the 7 points in the game, I think was a great accomplishment for our defense."