After returning with empty pockets last season, Barrington hit the jackpot the second time around.
The Broncos moved one step closer to the final four of the Class 3A state tournament on Friday night in with a thrilling 3-1 victory in the Mundelein sectional championship over Buffalo Grove, which saw its tremendous storybook run come to an end.
Contact information ( * required )
"I love playing in the rain and in front of so many fans," said Broncos senior David Conrad. "But it's even better when you come out of here with a win as important as this one tonight.
Conrad had a hand in all 3 goals in the Broncos' 3-0 semifinal victory over Lake Forest on Tuesday, and he influenced the outcome Friday when he scored the game-winner at 53 minutes.
"I was nervous coming over here because I knew we were in for a good one," said Barrington coach Scott Steib. "And I knew Buffalo Grove has been playing terrific soccer.
"But so have we, and even though we didn't get the kind of start we had hoped to, the guys stayed on course, and I thought earned a well-deserved win."
The Broncos will face the winner of the Evanston sectional final between Wheeling (20-1-2) and Evanston (17-1-2).
The supersectional is Tuesday at Hersey.
Last season, Barrington fell 2-1 in its sectional final to Warren, which later went on to win its first state title in program history.
"We've been saying all season long that it's been our defense and Pat (Deroche, Broncos keeper) which has been the key to our success," Steib said. "But we've scored 13 goals in the postseason and David has been a big reason for that, with just some great work during all four of those games."
The buildup to Friday's final had plenty of conversation on how the No. 15 seed was still alive in the tournament.
But after the watching the Bison (8-9-6) brush aside one higher seed after another, it was clear Rick Carlson's team belonged in this match just as much at the MSL West champion Barrington.
"It wasn't a case of us coming out and playing with nothing to lose because of our low seed," Carlson said. "We really felt we deserved a higher seed, and that we were right there with everyone else regardless of what our opponent may have been seeded."
It must have been a case of déjà vu all over again for those who had viewed the 2-1 victory the Bison recorded on Tuesday over Carmel.
Once again, Daniel Ramirez was in the middle of the first goal of the match. It came from almost the identical spot where he was when he poured in his game-winner.
Ramirez drove his 50-yard free kick directly into the 6-yard box. A late-arriving Deroche watched helplessly when Zach Masciopinto ran onto the serve and redirected into the back of the net just nine minutes in.
"After that instant, we all knew it was better to concede a goal way early, then way late," Steib said. "And with the way we were playing leading up to their goal, and even after, I felt if we continued going that way, we'd get back even before too long."
Conrad, Connor Hennelly and Logan Morris shared the ball well during the first quarter hour.
The Broncos' outside backs, Jamie Tausend and Tyler Anderson, gave the attack balance.
Soon, the match was even in the 17th minute with a thunderbolt of a shot from Morris, off a loose ball which fell to the senior 30 yards away from keeper Ricardo Valencia.
"I thought we made a couple of adjustments at the half to take away that area from Barrington," Carlson said. "But their guy hit a good shot, and I really don't feel that Ricardo could do anything with a shot like that."
The Bison kept it even into intermission.
Although the rain picked up after the break, so did the speed and tenacity of play.
Some quick and lively play in the Bison area ended with Conrad heading Anderson back post serve the other way.
Shawn Owen drove in his header from in close after he came through the middle to meet Tausend's bending left-footer corner two minutes later.
That gave the Broncos (19-3-4) a two-goal advantage with 25 minutes remaining.
A well-stationed Owen cleared a potential goal off the line in the 69th minute.
Had the wet turf not pried open, perhaps the final 10 minutes would have been more frantic than they were.
"We did some things hoping to create some chances, and we almost got one in," Carlson said. " And who knows what happens if we would have.
"But in the end, we couldn't ask for anything more from these guys. It's tough to see the career of Allan (Santiaguillo) end, and the others seniors, and to see the incredible work from Mash (Masciopinto) not be enough.
"But it was a great ending, and I am very proud of their effort, and the results we had during the past few weeks of the season."
Steib said his players have a lot of pride.
"And they should be very happy with the result," he said. "But I also know they want more and we'll begin to get to work in preparation for Tuesday at Hersey."