BARRINGTON — Moments after Barrington put up 497 yards of total offense against Oak Park-River Forest during a 39-15 win in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs Friday, Broncos coach Joe Sanchez made a confession.
“I definitely feel like we’re playing our best football of the season right now,” Sanchez said. “But I was a bit concerned knowing we drew Oak Park-River Forest as a No. 11 seed in the first round of the postseason. That’s not a No. 11 seed we just beat. They’re a great football team.
“Last year, we played Stevenson [in a Class 8A state quarterfinal] in a similar situation with really strong winds, rain and adverse conditions, and it didn’t go our way. So seeing our guys react as well as they did this time, in the cold and howling wind … I couldn’t be more pleased with their resiliency.”
Barrington (9-1), a No. 6 seed, had just about everything go its way against Oak Park-River Forest (7-3). After forcing a punt on the Huskies’ opening drive, the Broncos needed less than two minutes to score first, thanks to quarterback Johnny Davidson’s 31-yard touchdown pass to receiver Scotty Miller.
The Huskies then briefly tied things, 7-7, on junior Antonio Cannon’s 15-yard run early in the second quarter. But after that, the floodgates opened.
Davidson connected with Miller (six receptions, 88 yards) again for a 27-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 Broncos with about five minutes left in the first half. Barrington added insult to injury on the ensuing kickoff by recovering a pooch kick the Huskies never attempted to field, then found the end zone on senior J.T. Henderson’s 3-yard run with 44 seconds to go in the half.
By then, it was 20-7 Barrington. That was also the first of three rushing TDs on the night for Henderson, who carried the ball nine times for 77 yards.
“I’ve been waiting all year for this,” Henderson said. “When my number got called a bunch of times today, I made meaning out of those reps.”
Henderson got significant help from his teammates, who racked up 322 yards on the ground. Dumaso Mkwananzi (19 carries, 87 yards), Dylan Abel (seven carries, 45 yards) and Miller (three carries, 87 yards, rushing TD in addition to two receiving TDs) helped the Broncos earn 27 first downs.
Davidson was efficient passing the ball, going 11-of-19 for 158 yards and a pair of TDs. The red-hot Broncos offense had 28 plays that went for seven yards or more.
“I have to give all the credit to our scout defense,” Davidson said. “They did a fantastic job of putting pressure on us in practices leading up to this game, making us the best we possibly can be. We were ready for anything and everything. Our coaching staff was amazing leading up to tonight as well.”
While Barrington’s offense was going full-throttle, its defense (which allowed an average of 11.8 points a game in the regular season) continued to shine. The Broncos forced three turnovers, and held Northwestern-bound Huskies QB Lloyd Yates (16-of-26, 190 yards) in check.
“Being a part of this football team meant a lot to me,” Yates said. “A lot of these guys are guys I grew up with. They mean a lot to me. They put in a lot of hard work, and my teammates are class acts. I’ve never seen or been a part of anything like it. It’s too bad it ended the way it did.”
Barrington will face the winner of Saturday’s game between Maine South and Niles West in a second-round matchup. And it will do so as a motivated group.
“Rain or shine or windy weather, we’ll come out and play the way we’re gonna play no matter what,” Miller said. “Oak Park-River Forest is a quality football team, but our mentality is, ‘No matter who we play, they’re gonna have to play us.’ We’re gonna give anyone we face our best.
“We feel like we got slighted a little bit by having to face a team as good as Oak Park in the first round. And every time we read the papers, it seemed like everyone was picking them over us. We’re the dark horse. It puts a chip on our shoulders to go win like we did tonight, and every night.”