Barrington rallies to knock Naperville Central out of Class 8A playoffs
Barrington found a way to rise from the ashes Saturday night.
The Broncos, found themselves down twice by 14 points. But thanks to calmness on the sidelines and a sense of urgency on the field, the Broncos rallied to beat Naperville Central 28-21 in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs in Barrington.
The No. 3 Broncos (11-0) will host No. 6 Maine South (10-1) in the quarterfinals next Saturday afternoon. The game time is yet to be determined.
Barrington coach Joe Sanchez, who has been at their helm at Barrington since 2002, said he learned in his coaching experience to keep his team from panicking.
"We just reminded the boys not to flinch," Sanchez said. "Having been coaches for so long you know that some games are going to start like this. The key is not to flinch. Not to lose your composure. There was so much football left."
It would have been easy for Barrington to fall apart when Naperville Central (8-3) looked like it would break the game wide open early. Led by quarterback Jack Cook, the Redhawks jumped out to a 21-7 lead late in the first quarter.
Cook completed his first five passes for 129 yards to get things flying for the Redhawks.
Cook tallied on a 1-yard touchdown run while Aidan Clark (16 carries, 65 yards) scored on a 23-yard screen pass and 5-yard run.
After Naperville Central opened a 14-0 lead, Barrington cut the gap on a 15-yard touchdown run by Calvin Jackson. But the Redhawks regained that 2-touchdown lead and were looking for more.
Naperville Central had an opportunity to build on its 21-7 lead when Logan Ellison recovered a Barrington fumble at the Broncos 41.
But two plays later, Matt Marusich turned things around for the Broncos. Marusich jumped a route and came up with a key interception at his own 21.
"We needed a stop," Marusich said. "We couldn't stop them in the first quarter. That was a game-shifting play. I am just thankful that he threw it in the right spot and I was there."
That play would spark Barrington, especially its defense, to rise up. Led by Ian Marderosian, Devan Van Ness, Marusich, Justin Blasius and Cole Slatter limited Cook to just 20 passing yards while sacking him three times and forcing an interception.
"They had a script coming out and we just weren't ready for it," Marderosian said. "We responded after the first quarter. It just goes to show how hard a work every day and ale plays for each other."
With some momentum, Barrington drove the field. Fitzpatrick then busted off a 37-yard touchdown run on a sweep around the left side to make it 21-14.
Buoyed by the touchdown, the Barrington defense bottled up Naperville Central's offense. After a Redhawks punt, Barrington was back in business.
Just before the half, Nick Piepert threw a pass done by the goal line. Marusich outwrestled the ball from the Naperville Central defender to give the Broncos the ball at the 1. On the next play Fitzpatrick scored to tie the game 21-21.
The game remained that way when Fitzpatrick, who finished with 192 yards on 25 carries, used his foot to change his team's direction. Punting from his own 25, Fitzpatrick booted a 55-yard punt that flipped the field for his team, giving Naperville Central the ball at its own 20.
"I think that I can be a dual threat with the running and the punting," Fitzpatrick said. "My punt came at huge time for us."
The Barrington defense then swarmed the Redhawks. Blasius made a huge defensive play that turned into intentional grounding for the Redhawks.
Barrington took over with a short field at the Naperville Central 40. A 27-yard pass from Piepert to Will Nazha moved the ball to the 13. Three plays later, Peipert found a wide-open Conor Fitzpatrick in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass and 28-21 lead with 6:08 to play.
Naperville Central had two more possessions, but the Redhawks couldn't move the ball.
"We have an awesome group of seniors and we are sad to see them go," Naperville Central coach Mike Ulreich said. "Everything seemed to go right. We had a take-away late in the first quarter, but turned the ball right back over. At no point did we play complementary football. We played good football. We just couldn't find a way to put the ball in after that."