The beginning of any new football season always brings elevated emotions.
But with the student section on one side of the stadium chanting "29-28! 29-28!" and "Where's your rings?"- which barely drowned out the sound of grinding teeth coming from the players, coaches and fans on the other sideline - it was clear that Montini's visit to Joliet Catholic Academy on Friday night was no run-of-the-mill season opener.
In one of the most anticipated rematches in many years, JCA got a measure of revenge for its last-second 29-28 loss in last season's Class 5A championship game by posting a 21-7 defeat of the Broncos.
The difference in the game was a player who did not even spend last fall in pads. After concentrating on basketball for three years, senior quarterback Breshion Tucker returned to the gridiron this year so he could play a final season with his brother, senior cornerback Breion.
Breshion Tucker looked like he had never been away from the game. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns to pace the Hilltoppers' offense.
"We didn't complete one pass in the state championship game and today he throws two touchdowns, so he's been a big lift for this team," said Hilltopper coach Dan Sharp.
Tucker expected nothing less.
"I've always been in a leadership position on every team," he said. "I just take my role and do what it takes to win, whether it's passing, blocking, running, I'll do anything to win the game."
Tucker played a nearly perfect first half as all three of JCA's possessions resulted in touchdowns. The first was his 17-yard pass to Alex Kolodziej. That was followed by Josh Ferguson's 14-yard run before Tucker capped the half with a 23-yard scoring strike to Malin Jones for a 21-7 lead.
Montini answered JCA's first score with Matt Westerkamp's 21-yard pass to his cousin Jordan Westerkamp, but the Broncos spent the rest of the game spinning their wheels, with Matt Westerkamp having to leave with a sprained right shoulder in the third quarter.
After the teams' combined for three turnovers in the third quarter, the Broncos had two glimmers of hope late in the contest. The first came when they stopped the Hilltoppers on the 1-yard line, but their subsequent drive stalled at midfield. Then they couldn't make use of a Ty Isaac fumble at the JCA 46 in the final two minutes.
"They just outplayed us up front," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "They had a good game plan and their quarterback had a real good game. They were very focused and played well, and their big guys made plays."