Winning is tough in the playoffs.
And it’s not just a bad cliché.
Marian Central and Cary-Grove found that out Saturday.
At this point, every team thinks it can win. Montini actually did. And Crystal Lake Central had its shots at it.
Marian Central manhandled Montini after an early deficit the first time they met. But Saturday, in their very Montini way, the Broncos pulled a rabbit out of their hat and took it to the Hurricanes.
This was supposed to be Marian Central’s year, Chris Streveler’s year. So much so that the school had a documentary film crew following the team around.
They planned the film with a dramatic, triumphant finish.
Instead, it will end with the rawest emotion I’ve ever seen after a football game.
The Hurricanes were in real pain, shock and devastation.
Cary-Grove, however, survived.
And they did it because of their defense.
Crystal Lake Central’s offense was good, led by Kyle Lavand. He spread the field. He found multiple receivers. He just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone.
Almost everything they got came on quick outs and curls under the defense. But when they got inside the 10, the Trojans clamped down and they got nothing else.
The biggest surprise of the game came in the final two minutes. Kyle Norberg, who has been the Trojans’ rock all season, lost the ball on a run up the middle and gave the Tigers one last chance.
Lavand completed a 9-yard pass, and the Tigers looked in good shape to score and send the game into overtime.
But that was all they got.
Three plays, zero yards, season over.
After watching both teams play a lot this season, I honestly didn’t foresee that close of a game.
But the Tigers played the best I had seen in the loss. And they shouldn’t hang their heads a bit because of the result.
Just like Marian Central.
Everything they did this year shouldn’t be ruined by the result of one play, one drive or even one game.
Because, as we found out Saturday, any team really can win.
• Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.