The Barrington football team earned its first undefeated regular season since 1998 Friday by defeating Conant 40-19.
Despite a 19-year gap, the current Barrington roster has a quite a few ties to the team that went to the Class 6A state championship game in the late '90s. Several current players had relatives on that '98 team, including junior offensive lineman Sam Butera, whose cousin Joe Butera played defensive back.
"It was one of the first family traditions we could really pass down with sports," Sam Butera said. "It is a really great feeling. He was a great player and I really would like to be as good as him one day."
Senior lineman Tyler Hansen and sophomore linebacker Hayden Krause both had uncles on the '98 team, which were Matt DeBord, who played linebacker, and Brian Niven, who played defensive end.
Current Barrington coach Joe Sanchez was also part of the team, as he was in his first year as defensive coordinator.
"Both groups (the '98 team and the current team) are really, really special," said Sanchez, whose team will find out Saturday who it plays to start the postseason. "Certainly that '98 group was a really special group, just because of the players, the talent and the confidence they had and how much they loved playing for each other. In a lot of ways this group is really similar."
Although Barrington hasn't had a perfect record in 19 years, that hasn't meant they haven't been good. The Broncos have finished the past four regular seasons with a single loss, three of which came against Palatine.
This year the Broncos beat Palatine 26-24 in week seven. Despite the historic season, the Broncos players know they have a long way to go before getting to the state title game like the '98 team, which lost to Wheaton Warrenville South.
"We just have to take it one play at a time, one practice at time," Broncos senior QB Ray Niro said. "We can't look too far ahead, just focus on each practice. If we focus on each practice and staying in the moment, we can go pretty far."
Niro has led the offense throughout the season, and that didn't change Friday. The senior quarterback rushed for 324 yards and 4 touchdowns, and added 107 yards through the air with a touchdown pass.
"He can do stuff no one else in this area can do," Sam Butera said of Niro. "He makes magic happen."
Niro gave the Broncos a big push going into half time with a late touchdown.
The Broncos led 6-0 with around a minute left to play in the first half. Conant was trying to be aggressive with the ball attempting to make a late drive. But with a couple of incomplete passes, Conant left Niro enough time to make a big play.
He found a room to run, taking the ball 86 yards with 40 seconds remaining. The Broncos had a two-score lead the rest of the game.
"I threw a pick on the possession before, so I felt like I let my teammates down," Niro said. "I needed to make a play to help out and the offensive line did a great job blocking for me. I just found a lane and hit it."
Anthony Wachal, however, was able to pick off two Niro passes during the game.
Wachal, a junior, also made a pair of big plays on the offensive side as well, catching a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Polaski, and throwing a 52-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Spates.
"Anthony is the epitome of the type of kids we want and the type of kids we have on this team," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. "He's doing everything we asked, and he is leaving everything out on the field."
Polaski also completed a 30-yard touchdown to Cole Albach in the fourth quarter.
Despite Conant scoring twice in the fourth quarter, Barrington held onto a healthy lead with touchdowns from Michael Curran and Niro.