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O’Brien: Nick Leongas steps into the spotlight at Maine South

Maine South senior Nick Leongas didn’t have the apprenticeship he hoped for last season. An injury Week 2 kept him from playing quarterback or even really practicing at the position.

Instead, he did a lot of talking with the starting quarterback Brian Collis.

“Every day during practice we would talk, go over schemes, it helped a lot, “ Leongas said. “I thank him for that.”

Without the actual on field playing time, Leongas entered Friday’s game against Montini, the reigning Class 6A state champions, as an unknown to most.

He stepped up and delivered in tremendous fashion with three passing and one rushing touchdown in the Hawks’ 44-13 win over the Broncos.

Maine South coach Dave Inserra had been waiting years to see Leongas flash his stuff.

“We’ve had our eyes on him since back in third or fourth grade playing flag football in Park Ridge,” Inserra said. “We saw what he could do all the way back then and he showed it tonight.”

It began with a hiccup. Leongas fumbled on his first carry of the game and Montini’s Brendan Rauen returned the ball 51 yards for a TD. At that point Leongas hadn’t completed a pass, he’d done nothing positive, just one horrific mistake. It was a gut-check moment.

“[Leongas] showed what he was made out of,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “He rallied the troops. We couldn’t stop them in the first half, they had 21 first downs. [Leongas] was the difference, he made a lot of plays.”

Leongas was 15-for-25 for 231 yards. He also rushed 12 times for 91 yards.

“His poise and his gamesmanship were impressive,” Inserra said. “He was a new quarterback in his first series [when he fumbled]. He could have gone the other way but he took it in stride and he continued to execute. I’m real proud of his effort.”

Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis was another eye-opener. He had 23 carries for 211 yards with touchdown runs of 31 and 13 yards.

Montini was without star running back Prince Walker, a Western Michigan recruit. According to Adriano he has a quad strain. Will Smith Jr. filled in admirably, with 16 carries for 181 yards including a 69-yard touchdown.

“[Walker] is our best kid running the ball, so that didn’t help,” Andriano said. “Smith had a good game. We broke down and couldn’t really get a rhythm going on offense.”

The Broncos were also starting a rookie quarterback, junior Brad Norgle. He finished 6-for-19 for 55 yards.

“Maybe we tried to put too much on [Norgle] too early,” Andriano said. “We should have maybe tried to run the ball more early. He was nervous and it showed, he’ll play much better.”

It was the biggest margin of defeat suffered by Montini since the opening game in 2004.

“It certainly wasn’t easy,” Leongas said. “We prepared all summer. I’m not shocked that we won.”