DeKALB – DeKalb coach Matt Weckler didn’t care Montini hadn’t lost in the first round of the playoffs in over 23 years.
The Bronco’s rich program history that includes six state championships and a playoff win against the Barbs two years ago? Forget all that, too.
And when DeKalb was punched in the gut by Montini during Saturday’s first round game, the Barbs responded with a second half shutout to help defeat the Broncos, 38-28, and move on in the IHSA Class 6A playoffs.
“None of that matters,” Weckler said. “We played today and took this field and believed in ourself that we could come in and play with these guys.”
Montini led 28-14 at the 6:11 mark of the second quarter, when receiver Matt Ross pounced on a fumble by Broncos quarterback Nicholas Orlando that rolled into the end zone.
DeKalb responded with a three and out, but forced Montini to punt on the following drive, retaining possession with 1:25 left in the half.
Noah Valin then orchestrated a 12-play, 93-yard drive that ended in a 12-yard rushing touchdown by the senior quarterback. Valin rushed 14 times for 113 yards and one touchdown.
Valin’s score gave the Barbs new life at halftime trailing just 28-21.
“The score right before half gave us a little momentum,” Weckler said. “We’ve been very good playing in the second half. A lot of times our defense bails out our offense quite a bit. They did a great job today. We gave them a couple extra possessions and short fields that they capitalized on, but they got the stops and gave us opportunities to score.”
On DeKalb’s first drive of the third quarter, Valin found receiver Tyrese Dyson on a fly route. Dyson sped past the entire Broncos secondary for a 67-yard touchdown to tie it at 28.
“I was just trying to get to the end zone after I caught it, everything went blank,” said Dyson who led all receivers with three catches for 110 yards and one touchdown. “I knew once I saw their coverage, I was gone. Our team is all about speed.
Weckler referred to Dyson to a “little pinball machine.”
“I love Dyson; he’s a very high energy guy.” Weckler said. “’I’m just happy for him. Last year, he kind of sat behind some guys. This year, it’s his position and he’s exceeded all expectations.”
DeKalb took a 31-28 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Connor Tierney converted a 33-yard field. From that point on, it was all Barbs.
Steady pressure from DeKalb’s defensive line forced Montini to turn the ball over on downs near midfield with 5:39 left.
Montini’s biggest mistake came on the Barbs next drive.
DeKalb caught the Broncos offsides on a third and 3 at the Montini 10 with 1:34 remaining. The penalty gave the Barbs a first down, and running back Jaylen Hobson scored on a 5-yard rush on the following play to put the game out of reach. Hobson finished with 26 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
The Broncos committed an uncharacteristic seven penalties for 43 yards, compared to the Barbs’ one penalty.
“We always come back better in the second half,” DeKalb linebacker Keegan Smith said. “Today we really proved it.”
An interception by Jordan Gandy cemented the DeKalb victory over the Suburban Catholic-League powerhouse.
“Both sides knew we had to bounce back,” Valin said. “We fought until the end. Montini’s a great team, but we just kept fighting and chipping back. I saw plenty of holes when I was dropping back and rushing; our offensive line did a great job.”
The Barbs travel to Villa Park to battle Willowbrook in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
“We’ve just got to stay calm for our next opponent,” Valin said. “We’ll pick up our mistakes and play more efficient football our next game.”
Valin had a sporadic performance against Montini, but moved the chains when in mattered most. He completed 5 of 13 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown, but had two interceptions. Valin said he understands he needs to have a quick memory as the Barbs prepare for Willowbrook.
“Montini was a huge win, but we won’t dwell on this like it’s the championship,” he said. “We’re going to be alright if we focus on what’s ahead of us.”