Montini's Class 6A football playoff opener mirrored its regular season. Up and down.
Losing in the first round for the first time since 2006, the No. 12 seed Broncos squandered a 14-point lead midway through the second quarter when fifth-seeded host DeKalb scored 24 unanswered points to win 38-28.
"This has been a long season this year and tonight was a hard loss," said Montini offensive tackle Jeremiah Banks-Wall. "We played our hearts out, made a few mistakes and it kind of came back to hurt us in the second half."
Less a mistake than Montini's inability to lock it down before halftime, with 1:25 left in the second quarter DeKalb (8-2) marched 93 yards to get within 28-21 on quarterback Noah Valin's 11-yard run.
"I think that score right before half gave us a little momentum, and then we controlled the football and we did what we needed to do to be successful," said DeKalb coach Matt Weckler, whose Barbs avenged a 49-14 2015 playoff loss to Montini to face No. 4 Willowbrook, a 44-21 winner over No. 13 Deerfield.
DeKalb scored on its second play of the third quarter, Valin passing 67 yards to Glendon Williams, and led 31-28 on Connor Tierney's 33-yard field goal with 10:44 left to play.
In a telling late-game sequence, with DeKalb at third-and-2 from Montini's 10-yard line, the Broncos jumped offside, handing DeKalb a fresh set of downs. On the next play Jayleln Hobson scored his third touchdown on a 5-yard run.
"Again, just the story of the game, got to execute when you get the chance. And we didn't," said Montini coach Mike Bukovsky.
In the first half Montini (6-4) used athleticism and opportunity to lead 28-14.
On the Broncos' second play from scrimmage, quarterback Nick Orlando threw a swing pass to Nick Fedanzo, who ran untouched 64 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.
Montini answered 2 Hobson first-quarter touchdown runs with 3 straight touchdowns of their own. Jake Karczewski hurdled the line on a 1-yard run and 14 seconds later Jackson Bruscianelli forced a fumble and Scott West returned it 38 yards to score.
Matt Quaglia's interception set up a score when Orlando fumbled at DeKalb's 5-yard line, but receiver Matt Ross recovered the football in the end zone for a touchdown.
Orlando ran for 142 yards, but in the second half Montini couldn't get deeper than DeKalb's 39-yard line.
"Our kids played hard, they never gave up, but we just didn't execute well enough really in all three phases to win the game," Bukovsky said.