It is hard to imagine a more challenging set of circumstances facing the New Trier Trevians as they entered the final game of their nonconference slate.
Fresh off a heartbreaking defeat in their home opener, the Trevians headed on the road to face the undefeated, highly ranked Barrington Broncos — on a short week of rest and without their starting quarterback.
Despite that tall task in front of them, the Trevians stood tall and even found themselves in a golden position to deliver an upset.
Trailing by eight points with under three minutes to play, New Trier drove the ball all the way down to Barrington’s 10-yard line. A rush by senior Jackson McCarey gave the Trevians three shots at the end zone from 5 yards out.
But the Broncos stout defense was up to the challenge, forcing three straight New Trier incompletions. The Broncos’ goal-line stand preserved their 22-14 win and put an end to a valiant comeback attempt from the Trevians on Thursday, Sept. 14, in Barrington.
“There is a much more positive mindset today with the way our kids played,” New Trier head coach Brian Doll said. “I thought we played very physically tonight. We did not shut down at the end of the game in a close game; we were actually the aggressors, so that’s a big change from last week to this week. I really liked our mindset and us being mentally tough down the stretch, both offensively and defensively.”
The Trevians could have called it a night after the Broncos jumped out to a two-score lead early in the fourth quarter, but New Trier instead initiated a spirited comeback that started late in the final frame.
After forcing a three-and-out from the Broncos, New Trier took over at its own 34 with just over five minutes to play. The Trevs converted a crucial fourth-and-10 play to keep the drive moving when quarterback CJ Donnelly, who took the reins of the offense with Patrick Heneghan sidelined with an ankle injury, connected with Miles Cremascoli for a 13-yard gain.
Donnelly and Cremascoli connected again on the following two plays, gaining a total of 35 yards for the Trevs in a matter of seconds. One play later, McCarey broke free for a 23-yard touchdown run to put New Trier within striking distance at 22-14.
The Trevians nearly recovered their onside kick but the Broncos fell on a loose ball and started their ensuing drive with prime field position. But that didn’t matter because the Trevians defense quickly shut down Barrington to force a punt.
New Trier then started its decisive drive from its own 27. The Trevs found the right note on the first play as senior Kiernan O’Meara elevated over two defenders to make an outstanding leaping grab that set New Trier up inside Barrington’s territory.
The 33-yard completion was the first of two stellar plays for the Trevians on their intrepid series. Two plays later, it was the Trevians star senior who delivered the other moment of magic. Cremascoli made yet another remarkable catch, twisting and turning between two defenders to haul in a 30-yard pass from Donnelly on third-and-10.
But New Trier could not put the finishing touches on what would have been a stunning late comeback as the Broncos made the fourth-down stop in their redzone. Yet, the Trevs found positive takeaways from the narrow defeat.
“Last week on Saturday morning I woke up and I was really down, and I told the guys we have to forget about that loss,” Doll said. “The (positive) tonight is that I saw some resiliency. Our kids had to forget a tough loss last week and come out here on a Thursday on a short week and play hard against a team that they knew was 3-0 and had already beat up some good teams and played some tough games.
“I think we’re in a position now going into our conference season where we have to take off and be proud of where we’re at and just get going.”
New Trier opened the game’s scoring on the first play of the second quarter when Donnelly found a wide-open Cremascoli for a 42-yard touchdown.
Cremascoli’s grab was just the beginning of another brilliant night for the two-way standout. His stellar play for the Trevs has become so routine that huge performances are almost the weekly expectation.
And his genius was on full display in Week 4.
Cremascoli finished the night with a whopping 233 receiving yards. He hauled in 11 passes, caught a touchdown pass, rushed for another 11 yards on his only attempt and also intercepted a pass on defense — his third already on the young season.
No matter the defensive alignments that the Broncos threw at Cremascoli, he still found a way to make big play after big play for the Trevians. At times, it felt as though the entire stadium knew the ball was headed his way.
“They were double covering him, and at one point, they actually bracketed him with a guy underneath, so they had three guys kinda on him,” Doll said. “We’ve been in that situation before, but you usually see that in youth football, you don’t see that in high school football. They made their adjustments and he just kept coming back and making plays.”
Doll noted that Cremascoli was one of the senior leaders who really took last week’s loss to heart — and the longtime coach knew he’d be ready to respond in Week 4.
“He did everything (tonight),” Doll said. “I was impressed with him. I’m proud of him. … He really came out and responded today.”
New Trier also received a strong performance from Donnelly, who was making his first varsity start. The junior threw for 285 yards.
As the Trevs put their nonconference schedule behind them, the team will focus on its growth over the four weeks rather than its record.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, let’s be honest,” Doll said. “Coming off of Yorkville, we felt pretty good and then I think last week we felt great up until the last three minutes, so there’s been a lot of emotional change.
“Tonight, we lose, but I know the guys are feeling like we can play with these teams again. I’m confident in them. I think there’s growth at this point in time … and we’re starting to get some things down.”
The Trevs will open Central Suburban South play with yet another chalenging matchup against a perennial powerhouse. New Trier will welcome Maine South, the gold standard of CSL football, to Northfield Friday, Sept. 21. And the team will look to show the same fight it did against Barrington.
“When we fight to the end and we don’t give up, that just means everything for us,” Cremascoli said. “That just means we can go into any game and we continue to fight and … it doesn’t matter our opponent, it doesn’t matter their ranking, it doesn’t matter anything. Our team will come out here and we will work hard.”
Cremascoli said the team’s postgame speech also focused on keeping that fight going.
“We have to fight like it’s our last game,” he said. “We don’t know when it’s going to be our last game, so we just have to keep fighting, keep working hard and keep doing things right and come out here like we did in this fourth quarter.”
New Trier’s game plan for the Hawks will focus on limiting their high-powered offense and quarterback Constantine Coines.
“We have to limit the amount of points they put up,” Doll said. “They score in bunches, they score in a hurry. … I think, in general, we’re at a point right now where to beat them, you have to have a mindset that says you’re ready to beat them, your kids have to be prepared to beat them and then you have to shut down this quarterback because he’s very good.”
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.