Minooka, McCombs Best Broncos
To the superstitious, a full moon is believed to elicit patterns of unpredictable human behavior.
If you believe in that sort of stuff, then consider Minooka head coach Terry McCombs as unpredictable as they come.
With a full moon overhead, the No.15 seeded Indians were deadlocked at 34-34 in overtime with the 2nd-seeded Barrington Broncos in the second round of the 8A playoffs. That's when the 70-year old coach called a play the team had not used all year. A play that worked to perfection.
"Just a simple lateral pass back to the tackle," said McCombs. "We had to go into our bag of tricks a little tonight."
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Indians quarterback Zach Gessner tossed a pass to defensive lineman Derek Wentworth who rumbled into the end zone to give the visitors a 41-34 lead. It was very questionable call as to whether Wentworth was behind the line when he caught the pass, but the referees deemed that he had.
"The offense bailed us out tonight," said McCombs. "There's been games where the defense has bailed the offense out … coming in, they only allowed 10 points a game, but Barrington is a good football team and they put a ton of points up on us, so this was a true team effort to get the win."
Minooka (9-2) held a 26-14 lead in the third quarter, and had all but silenced the Broncos faithful at Celebrate Life Field on Friday night.
But with an athlete like Northwestern commit Ray Niro (236 rushing, 3 TDs, 208 passing) on your side, you can never count on keeping Barrington down for very long.
True to form, the signal caller orchestrated a 20-0 run that started with a drive down to the Minooka 2-yard line with 2:43 to play in the third, as running back Michael Curran scored from the 2 to cut the Indians lead to 26-21.
Early in the final stanza, Niro called his own number from 13 yards out for the go-ahead score with 8:45 remaining to give the Broncos the lead, 27-26.
Just under four minutes later, it was Niro again who hit pay dirt. This time it was from 4 yards out and gave Barrington a 34-26 lead with 5:06 left in the game.
Back came the Indians and with 2:28 left in regulation, as Gessner hooked up on a 12-yard scoring strike to receiver Maxwell Christiano to cut it to 34-32. Minooka converted the 2-point conversion and sent the game to overtime and set up the game-winning score.
"We knew all week at practice that they were a great team," said Gessner. "You don't get the No. 2 seed by accident, but our coaches told us all week that we could beat this team and we had the confidence that we could."
With the loss, it was the Broncos' fourth consecutive season where they have been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Nevertheless, they still finished with an impressive 10-1 mark.
"This one game won't define what this group left behind," said Broncos head coach Joe Sanchez. "The seniors left behind something greater behind … I'll love them forever and miss them tremendously."
"The playoffs are wonderful and full of exhilaration, and also full of agony," Sanchez continued. "Only one team in 8A is going to end with a celebration, and that's the beauty of it and what keeps you coming back."
The defeat also brought the Niro's illustrious high school football career to a close. The senior finished his season with 2,036 yards rushing and 30 TDs, and he was immensely proud of his teammates.
"These guys put in a lot of work and we weren't expected to go 9-0, and we did it," said Niro. "I'm so proud of them and it just shows we have a lot of fight, no matter what the scoreboard says, they played a great game."