LOMBARD – The Montini postseason curse had seemingly been broken.
Three years of close, but unsuccessful playoff battles against the Broncos were going to be forgotten after Austin Culton's two-point conversion gave Sycamore a one-point lead over Montini with 31 seconds remaining.
But Montini had one more possession. And in a fashion that befits a three-time defending state champion, the Broncos capitalized.
A good kick return set up Montini at the 50-yard line. Quarterback Alex Wills found Joe Borsellino on the sideline for back-to-back catches and Borsellino took a direct snap to the Sycamore 17-yard line, setting up a 34-yard field goal attempt with 5.2 seconds remaining
Andrew Harte's kick was true and Montini improbably came away with a drama-filled 24-22 victory over Sycamore in the second round of the IHSA Class 5A playoffs.
"It was the hardest game I've ever seen these guys play," Sycamore quarterback Devin Mottet said. "We gave it our all and when it comes down to it, they won off a last-second field goal."
Montini (9-2) took a 14-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. Following a series of short passes to Mark Gorogianis, Wills found Michael Dusek wide-open down the middle of the field for a 19-yard touchdown.
But Sycamore (7-4) battled back. Mottet hit Davey Scholz for a 22-yard gain and Ben Niemann hauled in a 10-yard pass on 4th-and-3 to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, Culton crossed the goal line on a 1-yard run to tie it, 14-14.
"[Mottet]'s a tough player," Niemann said. "He's a competitor. He took some hits and he doesn't want to leave the field. He wants to be out there battling with his teammates.
After both defenses forced punts, Montini scored on a 1-yard run from Borsellino to put Montini up, 21-14, with 1:56 remaining in the game.
However, Mottet brought his team back in a textbook two-minute drill. The junior quarterback completed seven consecutive passes, including a 6-yard touchdown to Scholz that pulled Sycamore within one. Sycamore coach Joe Ryan decided to go for the two-point conversion and Culton barely crossed the goal line to put Sycamore in front.
"We'd already talked about it. I told them on the bench, 'We need a score and we're going to go for two,'" Ryan said. "Austin's a bulldog. Things were sealed just enough for him to get in there."
But Sycamore's defense couldn't come up with one last stop.
"Great kicker, and they know if they get it across the 50, they've got a shot at it," Ryan said. "We just didn't make enough plays."
Sycamore dominated the first half defensively, allowing only two Montini first downs. But the Spartan offense failed to capitalize as three possessions stalled after lost fumbles and another drive ended on a missed 25-yard field goal, resulting in a scoreless tie at halftime.
Mottet hit Michael John Poorten for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game, 7-7, late in the third quarter.
It's the fourth time in the last six seasons Montini has ended Sycamore's season in the playoffs.
"Our kids battled," Ryan said. "I asked them to go from good to great and I think they played great today."