ICCP tops Bishop McNamara in fantastic finish

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/20/2019 11:35 PM

KANKAKEE -- It's one thing to hear about and maybe witness a great football rivalry, but it's an entirely different experience to play and star in the big rivalry event.

Just ask Danny Cronin, who was all smiles and sweat after IC Catholic Prep's wild 31-27 victory at rival and fellow Class 4-ranked Bishop McNamara. Cronin had three touchdown passes and then capped the crazy, wide-open fourth quarter with a 3-yard run into the end zone that answered the Irish's touchdown just about two minutes earlier. It came in a fourth quarter that saw 36 points scored after the hosts led just 12-10.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This was my first one and now I know why they call it a great rivalry," Cronin said after escaping with a win over a 2-2 squad that entered the night No. 5 in the 4A rankings. "We knew two TDs were not going to do it so we kept fighting. It came down to our resiliency."

The 4-0 top-ranked Knights needed to be resilient on a night when the Irish came hard.

Cronin was hit hard many times and a fumble of his was scooped up and returned 46 yards by Damien Thornton as the home team took a 6-0 lead that grew to 12-0 in the first quarter. But Knights linebacker Kevin Cooke recovered a fumble in the final minute of the half that set up Cronin's first touchdown pass of the night, an 8-yarder to Chauncey Lee that closed the gap to 12-7 at the half.

A Tommy Sloan field from 26 yards in the third quarter sent the tight defensive struggle into the final eight minutes with the Irish up 12-10.

But then the teams exchanged leads and impressive touchdowns before the Knights finally prevailed. Rashad Sbeil had a 28-yard scoring grab in that fourth quarter and then Ryan Vezza's 52-yard catch and run down the right sidelines put the visitors on top 24-20 with 5:33 left to play.

But Manny Harris' 31 yard TD on a sweep meant Cronin and company needed one more score late, and they got just that.

"Everyone played great on both teams, so kudos to them as well," said Cooke, who was all over the ball on defense and also played a key role on offense. "I was exhausted, but it always feels a lot better when you walk away with a win. We love playing against that team and they have some great players."

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Knights coach Bill Kreft couldn't say enough about his quarterback, his star linebacker and his entire squad for that matter.

"It sure opened up," he said of the crazy final quarter. "That's what high school football is all about. A rivalry game with two elite programs. They have a bunch of hard-nosed football players and so do we."

Kreft added: "I can't say enough about Danny Cronin. He ran hard, dove head first for first downs, made big throws…and Cooke, you see No. 44 everywhere on defense, but he's also a great blocker on the edge and great runner for us on offense."

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