It wasn't the finish it had hoped for, but Conant still walked off the field proudly after the Cougars dropped a second-round 8A playoff game to top-seeded Maine South 27-13 Saturday in Park Ridge.
"I am very disappointed," said Tim Manczko, who scored 2 touchdowns and had 9 catches for 115 yards. "Give Maine South credit. We just couldn't finish."
Conant coach Bill Modelski, whose Cougars finished the season with a 7-4 record, was pleased his team's effort on Saturday.
"Our kids believed," Modelski said. "We told them that they had to believe if we were to have a chance, and that wasn't the issue. I am proud of them. We just made a couple mistakes and it hurt us."
Maine South (11-0) got on the board first when quarterback Matt Alviti scored on a 8-yard run to make it 7-0 with 8:49 left in the first half.
Conant, which had been stymied on its first two possessions, got a huge lift when Bryson Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to give the Cougars great field position at their own 46 yard line. Seven plays later, Manczko took a screen pass 16 yards to tie the game with 6:26 left in the first half.
Conant had a chance to put a ton of pressure on Maine South late in the first half. Brown took a swing pass down inside the Hawks 1-yard line with 29 seconds left in the first half. But after an illegal procedure penalty and two incomplete passes, Conant was intercepted in the end zone with 7 seconds left.
"Leaving that one at the goal line at the end of the half hurt," Modelski said. "And it changed them. If we had gone up 7 before the half, we would have put a little more doubt in their minds."
Maine South tallied in the third quarter on a 22-yard run by the Northwestern-bound Alviti. The Hawks then made it 20-7 on the second play of the fourth quarter.
But Conant came charging back thanks to a 54-yard pass play from Danny Modelski (25-for-38, 351 yards) to DeAngelo McBride that brought the ball to the Maine South 3. Two plays later, Manczko, who was playing on a sprained ankle and had left the game twice with an injury only to return on both occasions, scored on a 2-yard run to make it 20-13 with 8:38 to play.
The Cougars then pooched the kickoff, and Conant's Elias Gardner fell on the loose ball at the Maine South 40. Conant drove to the 24, but the drive stalled after three straight incompletions.
After regaining possession, Maine South put the game away when Alviti hit George Sajenko on a 36-yard yard touchdown.
"I love being with this team," Manczko said. "Everyone looks up to me and I am a captain of this team. They all get me going."
Linebacker Troy Piccinini, who led the Cougars on Saturday with 6 tackles, including a sack, was pleased to be able to contribute this year after sitting out last year with multiple concussions.
"I am happy that I got to play this year," Piccinini said. "This was a big bunch of seniors and they are all great guys. I am glad I had a great season with my friends."