Minooka puts an end to Broncos' perfect run
Just three days after Halloween, Minooka played a trick that was certainly no treat for Barrington.
Minooka converted a trick play for a touchdown in overtime Friday and then held off Barrington on its OT possession to stun the Broncos 41-34 in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs in Barrington.
Minooka (9-2), seeded 15th, will meet the winner of Saturday's game between Palatine and Edwardsville in the quarterfinals next weekend.
With the game tied at 34 in overtime, Minooka faced a fourth-and-goal from the 4. The Indians, who had the ball first in overtime, opted against the field goal.
Minooka quarterback Zach Gessner rolled to his right, then suddenly stopped and threw the ball back to offensive lineman Derek Wentworth. The 6-foot-3, 292-pounder, bobbled the the catch and then rumbled toward the end zone, where three Broncos defenders tried to bring him down. But just like Billy Bob from the movie "Varsity Blues," Wentworth dragged his tacklers just over the goal line for a touchdown and a 41-34 lead.
Wentworth was able to advance the ball because the officials ruled that it was a lateral, and not a forward pass. Had it been a forward pass, Wentworth would have been an ineligible receiver.
Barrington (10-1) had its opportunity to tie and send the game into a second overtime. But Ray Niro, who was magnificent in bringing the Broncos back from an earlier 26-14 deficit, was stopped on two runs. On third and fourth down, his passes were incomplete, giving Minooka the win.
"I have always been a gambler," said tearful Minooka coach Terry McCombs, who at 70 years old was thoroughly enjoying his team's advancement. "We have had this play all year. We have never used it. But we had it, just in case we needed it."
The loss ended the season way too early for the Broncos' liking. They won the Mid-Suburban West outright this year and were seeded No. 2 in the Class 8A playoffs.
"It was a great year," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "They made one more play than we did.
"I was proud of our kids. We got down in the second half and our kids laid it all out there. We just couldn't come up with one more stop."
Barrington dominated play in the first half, running 35 plays to Minooka's 15. But the Broncos led just 14-13 at the break.
Niro, who finished with 240 yards on a season-high 36 carries, gave Barrington an early lead on a 5-yard run. That capped an 11-play, 43-yard drive to open the game.
Minooka came right back and scored just two plays later on a 5-yard run by Connor Etzkorn. That run was set up by a 53-yard run by Maxwell Christiano on the Indians' first play from scrimmage.
Barrington drove inside the Minooka 10 on two possessions, but came away scoreless thanks to a missed field goal and a holding call at the 1.
Minooka came up with another huge play to take a 13-7 lead on a 77-yard pass from Gessner to Braden Vercler.
Barrington scored just before the end of the half on a 1-yard by Michael Curran. The conversion kick by William Hutchinson made it 14-13.
Minooka appeared to be in command when the Indians scored on their next two possessions to take a 26-14 lead with 8:00 left in the third quarter.
Niro and the the Barrington offensive line of Brad Warman, Brendan Carpizo, Jorge Gavina, Alec Meister and Geoff Frank weren't ready to go home.
The Broncos scored on their next three possessions.
Curran scored on a 3-yard run to make it 26-21 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
After Niro (8-of-18, 212 yards) completed a 43-yard pass to Alec Andrea, Niro scored scored on a 3-yard run with 8:45 to play to make it 27-26. The Broncos opted to go for 2, but Niro was stopped short on the conversion.
That didn't seem to matter when Barrington scored with 5:06 to play on a 13-yard run by Niro and Hutchinson's conversion kick to make it 34-26.
Minooka, which had a huge crowd follow the Indians for the 90-minute drive to Barrington, didn't let their fans down and rallied to tie the game at 34 with 2:28 to play. The Indians scored on a 12-yard pass from Gessner to Christiano and successful conversion pass from Gessner to Steven Gonzalez.
Barrington drove to the Minooka 41 as time was running out in regulation. But Niro's pass was to the end zone was deflected just out of the reach of Luis Cossio as time expired.
"It would have been nice to go to one more overtime to see what could happen," Sanchez said. "That is the nature of sport. I am immensely proud of kids and our coaches. It was a tremendous year. This one game won't define what this group left behind."
Niro, who verbally committed to Northwestern this week as a preferred walk-on, said his team never quit.
"We got a lot of fight in us," Niro said. "They just came out in top. It is a rough way to finish up."
Warman said he and his teammates knew they could come back from a 26-14 deficit.
"I felt that we left it all on the field," Warman said. "We gave 100 percent effort for all four quarters and overtime. I am super proud of the effort. We never focused on the score. We just worked in it one play at a time."
Andrea said that it was a difficult end to a great season and it was a season he will never forget.
"We just came up short at the end," Andrea said. "These are my brothers here. We have a special bond here. It wasn't supposed to end like this. I am going to miss playing with these guys."