Tim Manczko made the big play when Conant needed him to Thursday night.
Facing third-and-4 with four minutes left, Chase Murdock and the Barrington defense knew they needed a stop or Conant could run out the clock.
But Cody Adelizzi and a host of other Broncos combined to stand up Manczko behind the line of scrimmage and force a punt. The Barrington offense took care of the rest, driving 50 yards to set up Daniel Kubiuk's 20-yard field goal as time expired to give Barrington (5-2, 2-1) a hard-fought 29-28 Mid-Suburban West victory over visiting Conant (5-2, 1-2).
"It was a great effort from our defense," Murdock said. "We all huddled up and said that this is it right here. We wanted to get that playoff spot locked up."
Murdock (33 carries, 295 yards) carried the offense as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight year. But it was quarterback Mark Bennett who made the offensive play of the night, connecting with Dylan Zyzda for 36 yards on third-and-15 to get to the Cougar 22 and keep the winning drive alive.
"They made some nice plays and we had some near misses (on deep balls earlier)," said Barrington head coach Joe Sanchez. "We got the big one when it counted."
From there, Murdock ran 5 straight plays to get the ball down to the 3 and set up Kubiuk's heroics. Kubiuk was eager to redeem himself after a missed extra point earlier in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 21-21.
"I hit a low ball," Kubiuk said of the missed extra point. "A kid stuck his hand up and I didn't think it was going through anyways. I thought I would have a chance to make up for it."
Murdock, who credited fullback Daniel Davidson and the rest of the offensive line for his big night, scored on runs of 50, 8, 2 and 1 yard.
"I've taken some big poundings before but we are all in it together," Murdock said. "My line was there doing it with me every single snap."
Murdock's performance overshadowed an admirable effort from Manczko (23 carries, 125 yards), who replaced an injured Matt Cullen at quarterback at the beginning of the second quarter.
"We put everything into this game," Manczko said. "We knew this was a playoff game and left it all on the field. I've got nothing left."
Manczko rushed for scores of 8, 35 and 2 yards and added a 45-yard touchdown toss to Cordell Smith that put Conant ahead 28-20 with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter.
"The only thing that I don't like, and I mean this as a compliment, is that he has another year left," Sanchez said of Manczko. "He is one heck of a football player."
And while a rare turnover from Murdock halted a drive in the third quarter and swung the momentum to the Cougars, Sanchez saw a change in his team's response to adversity from last week's loss to Palatine.
"There was a difference," Sanchez said. "This week, we were able to overcome it. It didn't hold us back from finding a way to win, and that's why I'm proud of our kids."