Broncos Breeze By Hawks After Big First Half
If you've ever seen the chicken chase in "Rocky II" then you'll have a general idea of how daunting a task it is to tackle Barrington's Ray Niro.
In the scene, Rocky Balboa attempts to coral a live chicken as part of his training regimen to improve his quickness, and just when he thinks he's got the fowl cornered, it eludes him yet again.
Life imitated art on Saturday afternoon for the Hoffman Estates Hawks defense when it visited Barrington and attempted to bring down the Broncos' signal caller.
Niro passed for 166 yards and 3 TDs, rushed for 110 yards and 2 TDs and even caught a 39-yard TD - in the first half- as Barrington won 47-21 in an MSL West battle of the unbeatens.
For all you fantasy football nerds out there, that's like 48 points in PPR formats.
"I've never had a half like that, but it's a good feeling," said Niro. "The scout defense did a great job preparing us all week for the game, so when I came into the game, I wasn't really nervous because I felt I had been playing the game all week."
The Broncos got off to a quick start on its first possession when Niro connected with Alec Andrea on a 65-yard toss. Barrington converted the 2-point conversion to go ahead 8-0.
Moments later, Niro bolted for a 26-yard touchdown gallop at the 4:28 mark to give the Broncos a 14-0 lead.
Two minutes after that, Barrington continued to roll as Johnny Gagne made a diving 34-yard catch towards the corner of the end zone off the arm of Niro to push the lead to 20-0 with 2:30.
Andrea then came up with an interception on the Hawks ensuing drive to continue a near-perfect first quarter for the home team as the defense limited the Hoffman offense to minimal yardage on the ground and even less through the air.
"Alec did a tremendous job out there today," said Broncos head coach Joe Sanchez. "We had him going up against two of the best wide receivers (Jaylan Alexander, Jayvon Blissett) in Illinois and he and Grant Leichter were up to the challenge."
"All week, we talked about how last year they (Hawks) had six touchdown passes against us and it was just some missed assignments, so we were focused on fixing that today, " Andrea said.
Eleven seconds after the Andrea pick, it was Gagne returning the favor to Niro when he hit him on a 39-yard quarterback comeback pass to push the lead to 26-0, capping off a forgettable first quarter for the visitors.
"The first quarter wasn't ours today and they seemed to fire on all cylinders," said Hawks head coach Tim Heyse. "Our goal coming in was to keep moving the chains and keep Niro off the field, but after their second score, we started to press a bit, threw two picks in a row and that was all after that. We just have to stay positive and get better."
Coming into the contest, the Hawks defense was the best in the MSL West, limiting its opponents to just a shade over 10 points per game - Barrington quadrupled that number by halftime.
Facing a 4th-and-12 from the Hawks 20, Niro found a locked-in Andrea for his second TD catch of the half to put the Broncos up 32-0.
But you can never count out the Hawks.
Despite trailing by 32, the Hawks never let up and with 5:19 left in the half, Austin Coalson connected with Purdue-bound Jaylan Alexander for an 11-yard TD to cut it to 32-7.
On Barrington's next drive, the Hoffman defense made a stand at midfield and forced the Broncos into 4th-and-1. However, with a weapon like Niro, punting never seemed to be an option that was on the table.
Needing a yard, Niro dazzled the crowd with an electrifying 50-yard mad dash to the end zone that put the Broncos up 38-7. Barrington converted another 2-point conversion for a 40-7 edge.
"The thing we know about them if you've watched the last two weeks…is that they have the ability to come back," said Sanchez. "From our standpoint, it was all gas and no brake against these guys."
Niro added another TD run to start the third quarter, this time good from 19-yards out, to put Barrington ahead 47-14 and shut the door on the hopes of a Hawks comeback as it moved to 7-0 on the year. The Hawks dropped to 6-1.
"The boys came out to play today," said Sanchez. "The coaches did a tremendous job of preparing them on both sides of the ball and I'm very proud of them."