SYCAMORE – Grant McConkey's second chance at a kick toward the east end zone gave the Sycamore football team success in its seventh chance against Montini.
McConkey's 21-yard field goal sailed through the uprights in overtime after the Spartans defense came up with their third stop of the game inside the 10-yard line as Sycamore beat Montini, 16-13, in the second round of the IHSA Class 6A playoffs.
The Spartans entered the game 0-6 against the Broncos in the playoffs, including a 21-17 defeat last year.
"We never beat them before, so it feels amazing," McConkey said. "It feels really good because of what happened last year obviously. It was redemption, basically."
Sycamore (10-1) took a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter after McConkey found a wide open Manny Dominguez, left uncovered on an empty backfield set. The speedy back turned the short pass into a 73-yard touchdown with 8:21 left.
"Coach (Joe) Ryan told us they would get big plays, and we knew they would," Sycamore linebacker Preston Ruud said. "They're a great team. They came out firing like we knew they would and we responded the way we wanted to."
But the Broncos (8-3) put together two straight scoring drives. After Deontay Bell escaped the Sycamore pressure and found Nate Muersch for a 26-yard lass, they attempted a squib kick that was fumbled by Sam Etienne and recovered by Montini's Keenan Makowski.
On a fourth and 10 from the 24, Bell lobbed a pass up to Nick Wind in the back of the end zone. The Broncos were called for a false start on the extra point attempt, then Aaron Stevenson missed the longer kick and the game remained tied at 13 with 4:09 left.
"We get a phantom call that's very suspect, but you still have to make the kick," Montini coach Mike Bukovsky said. "We didn't do that. The game comes down to lots of moments you have to execute and we didn't execute."
The teams traded punts at the end of regulation, with Sycamore getting the ball back with 1:04 left. After a 14-yard run by McConkey, he found Ben Herrmann for a 24-yard pass. As time expired, McConkey tried what coach Joe Ryan called a "dreamland" field goal attempt of 48 yards, but the kick was short.
Montini got the ball to start the overtime in the same end zone of the earlier missed kicks of Stevenson and McConkey. After a flag and a sack by Jason O'Donnell, the Broncos faced a fourth and 20, with the pass falling incomplete.
It was the fourth time the Broncos got inside the Sycamore 10 and failed to score. Late in the second quarter, O'Donnell got to Bell on a bootleg on fourth and goal from the 3. Then on the drive before Sycamore's score in the fourth, Dominguez stuffed CJ Bufkin on fourth and goal from the 2.
"You can't win a ballgame getting inside the 10-yard line three times and come away with nothing," Bukovsky said. "We left too many opportunities out there. You can't win games that way. You have to get points down there."
Sycamore scored in the second quarter on a fourth-and-3 from the 31, with McConkey finding an open Kyle Antos for a touchdown.
Montini responded with their first drive inside the 10, but the Sycamore defense held.
"We always say to need the get the ball in our offense's hands," Ruud said. "We need to try and do that as fast possible and as much as possible. When we get those stops it's a huge momentum boost for our offense."
This was the seventh meeting between the schools, all in the postseason and all since 2009. It was the first time the Spartans have won.
"It's a really good feeling," Ryan said. "I'm really proud of our kids. They worked so hard to get to this point and to play a caliber of opponent they played today and beat them, that's hard. [Montini is] well-coached. They're a classy program. When you beat a program and a team like that, you can be really proud."
McConkey finished 5 of 12 passing with an interception, a touchdown and 185 yards through the air. He also had 17 carries for a game-high 98 yards on the ground. Plus, in the overtime, the 21-yard field goal to win the game.
"It's something I've never felt before. It's crazy," he said. "I never had a game-winning field goal before. We played as a whole team, we put ourselves in position to win, and that's what we did."
McConkey said it meant a lot to be a part of the team to beat the Broncos – even mentioning current Kansas City Chiefs player Ben Niemann.
"It's tradition. The Ben Niemann teams, those teams, we've been trying to beat this team forever," McConkey said. "It takes a special group to do it, and we finally came to it."
Montini finished with 306 yards of offense and their second-lowest scoring output of the season outside of a 20-7 loss to Niles Notre Dame.
"It's the world," Ruud said of beating the Broncos. "Ever since the loss last year it's been on our minds. In the weight room, in practice, every day we've just been grinding and thinking and feeling of last year's moment, and grinding every moment."
Bell threw for 163 yards, with 78 going to Muersch. Bufkin ran for 94 yards.
After a run to the state title game last year, the Broncos fall short this year.
"At the end of the day this [stinks], but it is what it is," Muersch said. "We're going to come out on top. We made so many mistakes and you're not going to win ballgames when you do stuff like that.
"They played us tough. Give credit to their defense," he said. "They played their butts off. We beat them the last six times we played them. Congrats to them for getting the win. I can tell they really liked it. "