Marengo football coach Matt Lynch hugged his wife, Debra, and daughter, Savannah, while shaking hands and receiving congratulations from fans after the Indians’ biggest football victory in 18 years Saturday.
Marengo had erased a 15-point deficit against Rockford Lutheran for a 38-28 victory in their Class 4A playoff quarterfinal game. Lynch was asked what it was like to be in the semifinals.
“I don’t know yet,” he said with a hearty laugh. “I’ve never been to the semifinals. I’ll find out next week.”
No. 2-seeded Marengo (12-0) faces No. 1 Chicago Phillips (12-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Chicago’s Gately Stadium. Playing for a trip to the state championship game seemed implausible for a program that had not reached the postseason since 2004, yet Marengo is here.
“It feels amazing,” Indians wide receiver-defensive back Jarrell Jackson said after the win against Lutheran. “I don’t think a lot of people thought we were going to win this game, but we knew deep down inside we could do it if we played our hardest.”
Before this season, Marengo’s last playoff victory came in Class 3A in 1997, although the Indians seem unfazed by any postseason pressure. Lynch preaches to his players that each victory means another week to play football.
“We feel great about how we’ve been playing all year,” Lynch said. “I’m really proud of our guys and how we keep fighting.”
Phillips is back in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. The Wildcats have several players who have either committed to NCAA Division I schools or have offers, and are one of the fastest teams in the state.
“It doesn’t matter, man, it’s a semifinal game,” Lynch said. “Everybody’s good. I’ll tell you this about Phillips, it’s a semifinal game, we expect it to be a hard-fought game and we’ll see what happens.”
Marengo may not have the overall speed of Phillips, but the Indians are fast, too, with Jarrell Jackson and Craiton Nice at wide receiver, running back Jarren Jackson and quarterback Zach Knobloch.
The Indians will see Saturday how they match up with Phillips, a program that has elevated to the point of having good players transfer in now to play football.
“I am so happy for those kids,” Lynch said after the quarterfinal. “They worked their tails off. I’m so happy for them and for the school, the community and everyone associated with Marengo High School. It’s about family and community. This is for everybody.”
After 18 years without a postseason victory, everybody is embracing the Indians’ magical ride.
“[Going to the semifinals] is a crazy feeling,” Indians lineman Kwinn Velasquez said. “It’s something I’m never going to forget.”