Barrington put an exclamation point on its second consecutive Mid-Suburban West boys soccer title with a hard-fought 3-1 victory Friday night in the rain at Conant.
Next up for the Broncos (16-3-1, 10-0-1) will be Buffalo Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday, as Barrington will be at home for the 41st MSL Soccer Cup.
"Many of us who are back from last year's team, which finished second at state and lost to Wheeling in the Soccer Cup, were hoping at the start of the year to get back in the championship game, so it's a great feeling to do so," said Broncos senior Enrico Ruffino, who gave his club a 2-goal advantage with a terrific finish in the 58th minute. "Tonight's win is big for us because it ends our regular season on a high note, while helping us ride a wave of momentum into the postseason as well."
A high-tempo start from Conant (7-9-1, 5-5-1) caused problems for Barrington. As the game neared the quarter-hour mark, Conant exerted even greater control and looked poised to strike.
"We had a great start, but we conceded that early goal which, in a way, wasted all of that good early work," said Conant coach Jason Franco. "We did fight back and had our chances here and there -- but didn't finish them."
Aidan Lew split the Cougars' back line with a devastating early ball which put Michael Blanke through. Once past the last line of defense, Blanke, a junior, fired past Piotr Pyz in the fifth minute.
Three minutes later, Pyz was forced to leave the game following a 50-50 challenge with Blanke. Pyz was replaced by Mathew Jensen, who went the rest of the way.
Pyz left the contest shaken, but under his own power, and joined the line after the game to shake hands with the Broncos and game officials.
Jensen was tested immediately after coming on and did well to stop Lew on the way to turning in a solid 72-minute effort.
The Broncos allowed too much time and space for Sota Ono, and Conant's skilled junior made them pay for it when he equalized just three minutes before the intermission.
The Cougars thought what appeared to be a foul near the mid-line on a Broncos player would give them possession. But when play was allowed to continue, the visitors took advantage of the lifeline thrown their way.
Lew buried his attempt from in close to make it 2-1, setting up the Ruffino goal five minutes later.
"That was a tough call to go against us, and what made it tougher was Barrington putting one in on us," said Franco. "We responded and went after them the rest of the way. If it's a 2-2 result, it would have been fair also. Despite that, I am pleased with the way we played before the postseason begins."
The Cougars will finish their regular season with an MSL crossover against visiting Hersey on Tuesday.
Said Broncos coach Scott Steib in closing: "Conant gave us all we could handle, and they played just great all night, giving us a tough challenge -- which is the best thing for us as we begin to train for Buffalo Grove next week."