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updated: 11/2/2016 1:51 AM

Fremd finds winning playoff answers

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By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated for Fremd's Nick Cecchin tossing key 81-yard touchdown pass.

Every time it seemed Fremd had Saturday's Class 8A first-round football game won, they didn't.

Every time quarterback Tom Josten hit Austin Schwantz for a 5-yard TD or Mitch Kazmer hauled in a leap-and-run, 81-yard TD, Brother Rice responded -- a Dino Borrelli TD pass to someone who Fremd coach Lou Sponsel referred to as a stud athlete like Ricky Smalling, or with a run by a stellar back like Xazavian Valladay.

Still, the Vikings, 25th-seeded and on the road, answered with the plays they had to have in a memorable 45-42 upset victory over No. 8 seed Brother Rice (8-2) on Chicago's South Side.

But before all the aforementioned fourth-quarter heroics occurred, Fremd's defense, despite surrendering 355 yards, made the plays it needed to. Like Patick Ryczek's interception that set up Josten's 1-yard plunge for the halftime lead after the Vikes had otherwise trailed all of the first two quarters.

Or Ryan Kristo's incredible deflection to himself on Brother Rice's bubble flat pass that set up Joe Schneider's tough 6-yard TD run to open the fourth quarter and a 38-20 lead.

That only seemed insurmountable. At the time.

"We knew they had one of the best offenses in the state," Kazmer said, reflecting on how big those turnovers were.

"The defense came up with some big stops," said Josten.

Josten, who came in with a lower profile than his Crusader counterpart Borrelli, made clutch plays.

So did Nick Cecchin, who tossed the pass on Kazmer's 81-yard TD. At a time when they had to have it, after Smalling had scored on a fourth-quarter pass from Borrelli, Kazmer leaped and stole a long Cecchin loft from a Crusaders defender.

"I went up for the ball. I felt it in my hands and it was off to the races," said the 6-foot-4 senior, who also hauled in a brilliantly executed and called play-action, 34-yard TD in the opening quarter.

Josten finished with 299 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, no turnovers and got brilliant protection from Ethan Hanson, Zach Nemec, Max Carver, Jake Fleming and Matt Payne, who also enabled Alec Honickel and Schneider to gain clutch yards when they needed to, keeping Borrelli and Co. off the field.

Fremd (7-3) also got a score on a pass to Cecchin, who kept running off a jet-sweep fake and found himself wide open in the end zone when the Crusaders' offense lost him. Josten found him too. And dependable Luke Schoffstall added a 43-yard field goal.

But not everything went well for Fremd, which finished with 568 total yards. "We had some mental mistakes," said Josten. "We've got to play a clean game," he added, which next week will come against Huntley, which upset Stevenson on Friday.

Vikings coach Sponsel realized how critical every bit of effort was that went into planning and playing the game.

"Steve (Patton) is one of the best coordinators in the state," he said of his offensive signal-caller.

But Sponsel also knows you're never as good as your best game -- or as bad as your worst.

"We can beat anyone in the state," he said, and rightly so, after doing just that. "But we can be beat by anyone in the state."

Just not Brother Rice.

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