Montini comes from behind to defeat Loyola

Updated 9/29/2018 10:04 PM

Make space for Montini football.

Trailing Loyola 21-0 early in the second quarter, the Broncos chipped away for a dramatic Chicago Catholic League Blue victory, 28-27 at Hoerster Field in Wilmette.

Facing a 27-20 deficit early in the fourth quarter, Montini struck deep into Loyola territory with 27- and 36-yard completions from sophomore quarterback Robert Brazziel. On fourth-and-2 from the Ramblers' 3-yard line Brazziel rolled right and found Nate Muersch open in the right flat for a touchdown at 5:18 of the fourth quarter.

Compelled to go for the 2-point conversion, Brazziel again rolled right. Unable to see Muersch open, Brazziel threw back inside, finding receiver Matt Ross in a crowd. A yard shy of the goal line, Ross bulled his way in for the winning points.

"The quarterback told me, if I get flushed out just make space for myself, he was going to throw it up to me if he can't find our receiver," Ross said. "I was just like, 'OK.' That was the best play of my life, probably. That was the best feeling of my life."

The stunned Loyola crowd drew quieter three minutes later when Montini lineman Patrick Peters blasted Loyola quarterback Jack Fallon as he released an incomplete pass on fourth-and 3 from the Broncos 36-yard line.

With 1:13 left, Broncos starting quarterback Deontay Bell's fourth-down, 24-yard completion to Zach Olson sealed the victory and simultaneously clinched Montini's 26th straight playoff appearance. Montini (6-0, 2-0) dropped Loyola to 3-3, 0-2.

"We had this circled on the schedule all year, and we said we were going to come in here, we were going to win, we were going to go undefeated, we were going to win the whole CCL Blue and we were going to win state. I mean, we just have our goals and we're just one step closer to our goal," Muersch said.

He caught 5 passes for 113 yards, including a 36-yard scoring strike that had Montini within 24-20 at 1:47 of the third quarter.

Montini's season goals looked iffy when Loyola's Edward Eastman recovered a Montini second-possession fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and Jared Lombardi got a running start on a 40-yard punt return for touchdown and 21-0 Ramblers lead at 10:59 of the second quarter.

Nick Fedanzo's 99-yard return of the ensuing kickoff provided a spark.

"I think that shook us up a little bit," said Broncos coach Mike Bukovsky.

Scott West, who caught 3 passes for 107 yards and intercepted a pass on defense, scored on a 30-yard Brazziel pass play late in the second quarter. Nate Van Zelst's 36-yard field goal gave Loyola a 24-14 halftime lead. Van Zelst's 23-yard field goal had the Ramblers up 27-20 with 9:36 to play.

"One thing about this team is we never give up, we never give up," said Brazziel, 11-of-18 passing for 249 yards. "Whatever the score. I don't care if it's 41-zero, halftime, whatever, you never give up."

Loyola had beaten Montini twice before, nonconference contests in 2010 and 2011. With the specter of former Broncos coach Chris Andriano in his head, Bukovsky had no doubt about going for 2.

"We said it last night, plus you guys know if I don't go for 2 Andriano will kill me. That's just the way it is," Bukovsky said. "We talked about that yesterday, if we had a chance to win the game at the end of the game, we're going for 2."

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