Following scary injury delay, Marengo regroups to take down Johnsburg

Marengo junior Alten Bergbreiter transported to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital

Marengo’s Alten Bergbreiter breaks away from Johnsburg's Conor Benz as her returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown during a Kishwaukee River Conference football game on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Johnsburg High School.

JOHNSBURG – With about three minutes left in Friday’s Kishwaukee River/Interstate 8-Blue Conference game between Marengo and Johnsburg, time seemed to stand still.

For roughly 30 minutes, paramedics tended to Marengo junior Alten Bergbreiter following a Johnsburg tackle.

The tackle took place along the Marengo sideline, near midfield, as Bergbreiter was taken to the ground by a group of Johnsburg players while attempting to secure a first down.

It appeared to be a helmet to helmet hit that led to the injury, and several Marengo players and students were in tears, visibly upset along the Marengo sideline.

At the time, the Skyhawks were clinging to a one-point lead.

Bergbreiter was eventually stabilized, then placed in a neck brace and transported to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge for additional testing.

He gave a thumbs up to his parents along the sideline just prior to being taken to the hospital.

When play resumed, an emotionally charged Marengo completed passes on its next three plays, driving Marengo over 40 yards, to the Johnsburg 7-yard line.

Play No. 4, on first-and-goal, was a quarterback sneak by David Lopez, for a game-winning 7-yard touchdown run with 1:53 left to play, capping a bittersweet 25-18 Marengo comeback victory that pushed the Indians to .500.

Shouts of “this one’s for Alten” repeatedly echoed near the Marengo bench following the winning score, as the visiting fans were sent into a frenzy.

After the final horn sounded, players and coaches on both teams were still trying to process the gut-wrenching rollercoaster scenario they’d just been part of and witnessed during the final three-plus minutes.

“Obviously an emotionally charged ending,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said. “I’m happy our guys responded the way they did given the unusual set of circumstances.”

Bergbreiter also returned the game’s opening kickoff 96 yards for a TD, setting the tone for a Marengo (2-2, 1-1 KRC/I8-Blue).

Defensively, the Indians got a pair of interceptions from Parker Mandelky, including one late in the game that stalled a Johnsburg drive, as the Skyhawks attempted to put the game out of reach.

“Our kids came up with some big plays in big moments when we needed them to,” Forsythe said.

Offensively, Issac Anthony carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards, while Lopez ran seven times for 54 yards, including the final TD.

Johnsburg tallied a pair of TD runs by QB A.J. Bravieri, one from 1 yard in the first quarter, then another on a 2-yard sneak with 3:23 left to play.

His 2-yard score gave Johnsburg (2-2, 1-1) its first lead since the opening quarter.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome Lopez’s heroics.

“We need to learn to finish games better,” Skyhawks coach Sam Lesniak said. “It was nice to see us have that late drive, but a win would have been better.

“It was a real difficult situation for everyone. When something happens to a player like tonight, all you really care about is making sure that kid is OK.

“All of our thoughts and prayers are with Alten and his family right now. And congratulations to Marengo on a real gutsy conference win.”