Montini relaxes, gets victory
As in two measly yards.
That was Montini's offensive output in the first half Saturday in a Class 5A second-round playoff game against visiting Sycamore.
That might upset a few coaches. But not Broncos coach Mike Bukovsky, who preferred to take a glass-half-full approach during the halftime break.
"Our guys might have been a little shellshocked, and I'm like, Guys, you're not going to win every half of football you play," Bukovsky said of his midgame talk.
The key message? R-E-L-A-X, and it worked. With 177 yards of total second-half yardage, compared to 79 for Sycamore, Montini put away the Spartans 21-17 to move into the Class 5A quarterfinals next weekend against either Elmwood Park or Evergreen Park.
It was the sixth time since 2007 that the Broncos knocked Sycamore out of the playoffs, so history was decidedly on Montini's side.
"We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, we did some things to change it up a little bit," Bukovsky said. "Our offense came out and once we scored, I said, 'Guys, we've got the lead.'"
Added senior running back Nick Fedanzo: "We just said, we're not out of the game, we're only down by three points, we've got to come out fast."
Football is a game of offense, defense and special teams, and if the second half was the offensive showcase for the Broncos, then the first half was about defense and special teams.
Down 7-0 after Sycamore scored on its second possession, senior Zach Olson returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to tie the game.
And that defense? The front line of senior Frank Conforti, junior Patrick Peters, junior Cam Richardson and senior Fred Stokes limited the Spartans to just a 21-yard field goal the rest of the half. That was due to a crucial third-and-goal stop at the Montini 4.
Still, the offense needed a spark coming out of the halftime locker room, and they got it from Fedanzo, who rushed for all of his 82 yards on 11 carries in the second half. He also scored 2 touchdowns, the second a 24-yard scamper off left tackle down Sycamore's sideline with 8:37 to go, which set the final score. That play ended an 11-play, 76-yard drive that ate up 3:10.
"I put my shoulders down and was trying to hold onto the ball as well as I could," Fedanzo said. "I was trying to run over as many kids as I could."
But this one was far from over. Sycamore went three-and-out on its drive and Montini got the ball back and ran 10 plays, getting all the way to the Spartans' 38, before fumbling the ball away.
No problem, though. Three plays into Sycamore's would-be game-winning drive, senior Scott West intercepted Spartans junior quarterback Grant McConkey with one minute left to seal the victory.
"Once they got the ball, they had no timeouts," West said. "We all knew they had to pass the ball. I just read that route. He overthrew it a little bit."
The defense held McConkey and all three of Sycamore's running backs -- Logan Egler, Connor Smith and Manuel Dominguez -- to 67 yards or fewer. McConkey completed 3 of 6 passes for just 14 yards.