LOMBARD – Big rivalry games often are defined by big plays.
On Friday, Marian Central was on the wrong side of a few too many such plays in a 40-35 loss to Montini. The Hurricanes (5-2, 3-2 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division) tried to close the gap with a pair of fourth-quarter scores but ultimately ran out of time against the Broncos (7-0, 5-0), the four-time defending Class 5A champions.
Marian’s defense allowed a half-dozen plays for 20 yards or more, including an 80-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, to create a double-digit deficit for much of the game. Hurricanes quarterback Billy Bahl passed for two touchdowns to Jordan Niemeyer and ran for another, and Ephraim Lee added two rushing touchdowns for Marian, but Montini’s high-powered offense proved to be well equipped for a shootout.
“I think we learned a lot about what we can do and can’t do on defense,” Marian coach Ed Brucker said. “We’ve got to switch up our personnel a little bit because they play in space so much. We’ve got to have the right kind of personnel out there.
“A couple mistakes. We just made a couple mistakes.”
They were big ones.
Both teams traded touchdowns early en route to a 14-14 tie, but the Broncos struck fast with two touchdowns in a span of 2:24 just before halftime. After Lee’s second rushing touchdown tied the score, the Broncos scored on the first play of the next series with receiver Tyler Tumpane turning a pass across the middle into an 80-yard score.
Tumpane scored again with a 2-yard rushing touchdown out of the wildcat formation on Montini’s next possession, which forced the Hurricanes into a 27-14 halftime deficit.
The Hurricanes’ deficit increased to 40-21 early in the fourth quarter before Bahl rallied the offense with a 63-yard touchdown to Niemeyer and a 6-yard quarterback keeper in the game’s final minute.
Lee, who finished the game with 92 rushing yards and 44 receiving yards, said neither team shied away from contact at the line of scrimmage. The Hurricanes lost several players to injuries, including two-way player Chris Daniels, in the first half.
“It’s very physical,” Lee said. “We came out and we hit them hard, and they hit us back.”
Wills agreed. He absorbed several big hits in the pocket for Montini.
“They’re always physical,” Wills said. “They might look smaller this year, but they definitely hit just as hard as last year.”
Both sides expected a rematch in the near future.
“It’s a tough loss,” Lee said. “Losing stinks. We never like losing. But we’ve just got to fix our mistakes. We realize how few mistakes we can make to beat this team.”
Wills did not hesitate when asked about the next chapter of the rivalry.
“We’ll definitely see them again in the playoffs,” Wills said. “That’s a guarantee.”