Kmet, St. Viator win thriller at Montini
In the postgame huddle Friday night at Montini, the St. Viator team did a splendid job of singing "Happy Birthday" to quarterback Cooper Kmet.
With the emphasis definitely on happy.
The junior quarterback turned 17 Friday, and the Lions to a man were overjoyed at what had just transpired on the field in Lombard.
In a CCL/ESCC crossover game that came down to the wire, St. Viator scored with 1:01 remaining and then held off Montini in the final minute to win 21-14.
Kmet ran for 2 scores and threw for 244 yards in the victory.
"This is great," said Kmet, the younger brother of Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet. "No one had us winning this game coming in. This is the hardest we've ever fought for a win."
Montini battled tooth-and-nail with the Lions for 48 minutes, but Broncos coach Mike Bukovsky said the outcome came down to a few crucial errors.
"We had two turnovers that were very costly," said the coach. "We had a couple of really bad plays, and a couple of very untimely penalties.
"You can't make those kind of mistakes in the Catholic League. We're still a young team. We're trying to learn that lesson and it doesn't get any easier from here on out."
Montini didn't get many chances in the first half.
The Broncos made the most of their first opportunity, scoring on their opening drive when running back Alex Marre ran one in from 3 yards out to make it 7-0.
But with St. Viator playing ball-control, Montini only got the ball for one more possession in the opening two quarters.
"We couldn't get off the field," lamented Bukovsky.
St. Viator tied the game in the latter stages of the second quarter when Kmet raced up the middle for a TD from 14 yards away.
Then St. Viator junior defensive back Jaylan Szlachetka stopped the next Broncos drive with an interception on the Lions' 2-yard line.
"Our defense stepped up," said Kmet, "and they've been doing that all year long."
Another St. Viator junior, Dayvion Ellis, got the second of the Lions' 2 INTs in the third quarter to help keep the score knotted up at 7-7 heading into the final stanza.
The action on offense picked up big-time in the final 12 minutes.
St. Viator took the lead on a 7-yard run by Kmet; then Montini drew even when Marre scored again, this time running one in from 6 yards out.
The Lions then drove the 80 yards on the next possession, taking a one-touchdown lead.
Ellils, from his wide receiver position, scored on a reverse, taking a flip from Kmet and racing around left end for what turned out to be the game-winning TD.
"We hadn't run that play in awhile," said Kmet, "and we ran it perfectly. Dayvion did a nice job. He got us the lead and led us to this win."
St. Viator popped up the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball to Montini at its own 40-yard line with 58 seconds to play.
"They (Montini) have some great speed on their team," said St. Viator coach Dave Archibald of the short kick. "We were trying to keep the ball out of the hands of certain guys."
Seeking a tying score, the Broncos threw two incomplete passes, then completed one on third down for 6 yards to Marre.
On fourth down, a miscommunication on the snap led to a fumble. The St. Viator D, including linebacker Michael Zawilenski, prevented the Broncos from advancing the ball.
The turnover on downs gave St. Viator possession, and the Lions were celebrating the win 38 ticks later.
"We really couldn't even get a play off on fourth down," said Bukovsky.
"Sometimes you get what you deserve, and we didn't deserve to win tonight. That's the bottom line."
St. Viator coach Archibald added that his team was able to get the victory despite starting 17 underclassmen.
"We lost a lot of seniors after last year," said Archibald. "Just to see the growth and development of our kids this season, I'm just so proud of them."