For the third consecutive week, the Barrington Broncos played a road game against an opponent who was a playoff team in 2017 — and won.
None bigger than on Friday night, as the Broncos erased a 23-10 second-half deficit to stun the No.3 ranked Maine South Hawks, 26-23, in non-conference play.
"To be able to come out here and be successful was a great challenge," said Broncos head coach Joe Sanchez. "We've been fortunate to have played here a couple times in the past … we knew what the environment would be like, and were prepared for it."
Barrington's defense, which had allowed just 281 total yards and 14 points of offense in its first two games entering Friday night, set the tone early on the Hawks' opening drive thanks to two sacks in under a minute by defensive lineman Kevin Meckert.
"What Kevin was able to do, and what we were able to establish on the defensive line early on, that helped set the tone in our defense to have the confidence and believe we could go out and compete against a very powerful offense," said Sanchez.
It was tough sledding for both offenses in the first half. Each team could only trade field goals until the last 13 seconds before intermission, when the Hawks parlayed a Luke Preston interception into a go-ahead touchdown plunge by running back Jimmy Bartell for a 10-3 lead at the break.
Then the fireworks began.
The Broncos received the second half kickoff and wide receiver E.J. Darlington fielded it at the Barrington 14-yard line. With a blink of an eye, the junior speedster was gone for an 86-yard kickoff return TD that ignited the visitors bench and evened up the score at 10-10.
"He had a phenomenal game tonight … he trained really hard this spring with track … each week he's getting better and better," said Sanchez.
Maine South then flexed its muscles midway through the third quarter when they put up 13 points in just over a minute to take a 23-10 lead with 4:59 to go in the stanza.
The Broncos took the Hawks' best punch and then punched back harder.
Trailing 23-13 in the waning moments of the third, Barrington forced Maine South to punt from its own end zone, and after a bobbled snap, in which senior linebacker Mark Di Lorio jarred the ball free, junior defensive back Adam Brokke pounced on it to trim the Hawks lead to 23-20.
"This week's theme was to never take a play off and obviously it was pretty evident tonight," said Sanchez. "These guys fought hard all night."
Still trailing 23-20 with under 6 minutes to play in the contest, Sanchez reached into his bag of tricks and dialed up the perfect play on second and twenty from the Barrington 46.
Broncos quarterback Tommy Fitzpatrick took the snap and fired a lateral pass to Darlington along the Barrington sideline. Darlington then heaved a 54-yard strike to wide open tight end Tim Lowe for the go-ahead and eventual winning score, with just 2:58 left in the game.
"I knew the minute the coaches called it, it was going to be a touchdown," said Darlington.
The Barrington defense, proving preseason doubters wrong time and time again, snuffed out any chance for a Maine South rally en route to an electrifying 26-23 victory, and moved to 3-0 on the season.
"We've proved a lot of people wrong so far," said Darlington. "A lot of people said we couldn't do this (this year), that we lost too many players to graduation last year … so this is a great feeling for us."