Of an anxious last minute, Nile Sykes was quick to shoulder responsibility.
"I made this game a little longer than it should have been," the Montini senior said.
He should take his share of credit, too. It was an eventful first night as a Bronco, a memorable Montini win.
Derrick Curry intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game's final play, and No. 2 Montini survived a wild finish to beat Maine South 21-19 in a matchup of teams with a combined seven state championships the last five years on Saturday in Lombard.
Sykes, a transfer from Oak Park, made an impactful Montini debut. He was a terror defensively at linebacker with 11 tackles, 3 for loss, and a sack. In the third quarter the Broncos lined him up at fullback, and he rumbled 3 yards for a go-ahead score and 14-7 lead.
"We knew he's a great linebacker. He's a pretty darn good running back, too," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said with a laugh.
"He's a man out there," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "He's just a playmaker."
But Sykes fumbled with less than two minutes left, allowing Maine South one last gasp.
Maine South drove to the Montini 22 behind quarterback Alec Basso, who was 24 of 38 for 332 yards in his first varsity start, but Montini seemed to have the game won when Basso ran out of bounds with no time left. It was ruled that the clock was incorrect and seconds put back on. Maine South, its kicker cramping up, elected to forego a field-goal attempt and Curry picked off a heave to the end zone.
"There's nothing I could say. I had to come back and play hard. Couldn't get down on myself," Sykes said. "We played until the end and pulled it out."
Point-after attempts proved the difference.
Maine South pushed a kick wide right to keep Montini ahead 14-13. After Basso ran in a score from 5 yards out with 2:48 left, Michael Reilley knocked away a Basso conversion pass for the tie.
Montini, known more for its high-octane offense in winning four straight state titles, seems to have quite a defense to bank on as it tries to win a fifth ring for the thumb. The strength of Dylan Thompson and speedy playmakers like Sykes and Michael Maduko are big reason why.
"Our defense, I knew it was pretty good," Andriano said. "I think it proved some things tonight. Maine South is just like us. They're never going to stop. It makes for some very exciting football."
Montini went the whole first quarter without a first down but got its offense untracked when it went no huddle.
Alex Wills was 18 of 34 for 277 yards, 6 of those passes going to No. 1 target Tyler Tumpane. Tumpane's huge 4-yard run on a busted field goal attempt set up Terrance Savain's 3-yard touchdown run for Montini's first score, tying it 7-7. Tumpane later lined up in the Wildcat formation, taking the direct snap for an 8-yard touchdown run and 21-13 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
"We were a little bit in the daze at the start," Andriano said. "I think our no-huddle got our rhythm going and they got tired I think."
Montini won despite committing four turnovers, proving up to the challenge against a fellow elite football program three classes its senior in size.
"They're a powerhouse," Sykes said of Maine South. "Glenbard West was a heck of a team when I was at Oak Park, but that's a very good team."