Conant knocks off Barrington

 
By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/21/2018 11:59 PM
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Highs and lows.

Most every football team regardless of level experiences those things during the course of a season.

For both Barrington and Conant the story has been no different on their respective seasons thus far as both teams opened up Mid-Suburban West play in Hoffman Estates Friday evening.

After each squad got off to a pair of 2-0 starts, both ran into varying degrees of difficulty in crossover games with Central Suburban South members Evanston and Maine South.

The Cougars encountered a pair of defeats to both schools while the Broncos were coming off their first loss of the season at home to the Wildkits after engineering a late come-from-behind win on the Hawks' home turf the previous week.

Thanks to an efficient offensive attack paired with a defense that came through with a game-changing third quarter play that enabled Conant to nab a 21-12 victory at Feutz Field.

"I felt that we learned a valuable lesson last week in our loss to Maine South where we believed that we could go toe-to-toe with the better, battle-tested teams," Conant coach Bryan Stortz said. "The biggest thing being that it's the little things that win or lose games. A play here, a play there. That's the biggest thing."

Stortz was prophetic as he saw his team successfully respond to the reigning MSL West titlists on two occasions during the first 24 minutes of play.

After the Broncos (3-2, 0-1) got on the board first on their first play of their second series when wide receiver Eric Darlington, Jr. took a handoff and whizzed past the Conant defense 54 yards for a 6-0 lead, the home team would respond with a 16 play, 80-yard drive that ended when junior tailback Bradley Spates (20 carries, 79 yards) took it in from the 1. The first of three Jessica Smeltzer PATs put Conant up 7-6 with 7:41 remaining until halftime.

Barrington countered with an 80-yard scoring drive of itsr own (12 plays) that senior Michael Curran completed when he found pay dirt from 4 yards out 3:40 later in period two that put the Broncos back up 12-7.

The Cougars (3-2, 1-0) once again responded with a 13 play, 86-yard counteroffensive that would give them the lead for good when seniors Kevin Polaski and Anthony Wachal connected for third time in the drive from 5 yards out with 10 ticks remaining in the first half giving them a 14-12 advantage at the break.

Then on Barrington's first possession of the second half the game changing play took place when Conant's Ryan Schar picked off a Tommy Fitzpatrick pass at the Cougar 21 with 8:31 remaining in the third that set the hosts up at their 24. Nineteen plays, 76 yards and 9:21 later Polaski (159 yards combined passing and rushing) faked a handoff to Bradley Spates on a 2nd and 2 at the Bronco 6 and went through the middle of the Barrington defense where he found the end zone giving them a 21-12 advantage just 50 seconds into the final quarter.

Polaski credited his team's victorious effort in large part to successful game management that saw Conant win the critical time of possession battle 29:49 to 18:11 as it outgained Barrington 312-233.

"We were able to make some good play calls that put us in a good spot to take time off the clock," Polaski said. "We were very resilient in being able to bounce back when they scored by keeping our composure."

The Broncos' final push on the ensuing drive went from their own 24 to the Conant 9 on a 17 play, 67-yard drive over the next 7:02 that ended when a Fitzpatrick pass fell incomplete on a 4th-and-4 with 4:08 to play. Barrington's final series would end as Fitzpatrick (10-for-17, 101 yards) was sacked by Derek Lewandowski on the game's final play.

"You gotta tip your cap to Conant," Barrington coach Joe Sanchez said. "We have a great respect for Bryan and his staff. They did a great job in getting their kids ready to play. We made too many mistakes from the obvious where we were 0-2 on PATs and the one interception as we were driving in the third. We also had a lot of missed assignments that hurt us well."

Sanchez also took the glass half full approach as the Broncos return home for their annual homecoming game next Saturday versus Fremd.

"There's still a long way to go in this division race," he said. "We have a young team that's still learning. We'll go back and look at the film and look to improve from this."

While a trip to archrival Schaumburg awaits Friday night, Stortz beamed with pride as his team ran to the Cougar Crazies student section to celebrate their win.

"We took a step forward tonight," he said. "For tonight, I just want to enjoy this win."

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