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CHAMPAIGN -- If they weren't already, the Montini Broncos can be counted among the state's football immortals.
Bringing its pounding 4-3 defense to Memorial Stadium, Montini beat Morris 19-6 Saturday to win a fourth straight Class 5A championship. The Broncos join Joliet Catholic, Mt. Carmel, Providence and former archrival Driscoll with at least four straight titles.
"This is a great group of seniors," said Montini coach Chris Andriano, who also won the 4A title in 2004. "They've known nothing but state championships and winning. We won 20 straight games in the playoffs. I still just can't really believe all of that. ... It hasn't been easy, but it sure has been worth it."
"Today's game, the seniors especially, this is our last high school game together," said running back Dimitri Taylor, who ran for 165 yards and scored Montini's only touchdowns on a 74-yard run and a 48-yard reception.
"We might not end up seeing each other or playing with each other ever again, so we had to live it up this time."
Montini (12-2) was living right when after defensive end Dylan Thompson ended Morris' opening possession on his tackle of Reese Sobol on fourth-and-8. Taylor broke his 74-yard touchdown run on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage. Right tackle Phil Kesik cracked down and Taylor was off to the races.
"We haven't gotten off to a good start in any one of our first four playoff games, so for us to actually get the lead early was huge for us. I think it really set the tone and I think it really got our defense fired up," Andriano said.
Yes, the defense. Andriano and Morris coach Alan Thorson accurately predicted a physical pounding. The Redskins' 4-3 defense held Montini 15.5 points under its average; Montini gave Morris' ground game a taste of its own smashmouth medicine.
"We just played physical, matched their physicality and it worked out for us," said Montini defensive end Fred Beaugard.
"I give our defense a lot of credit today," Thorson said. "I thought they held them in check as well as we probably could have minus maybe one big play or two."
After missing field-goal tries of 56 and 32 yards, Montini's second big play earned a 13-0 halftime lead. From Morris' 48-yard line quarterback Alex Wills floated a pass downfield over two linebackers to Taylor, who finished the 48-yard scoring play with a spin move at the 10 and a hurdle at the 2.
"That was a big score, obviously, a huge score," Andriano said. "Makes it a two-score game right before half, so momentum again."
Morris could have turned it around on Montini's first play of the third quarter, a pass to the left flat the Redskins' Indiana-bound defensive end Danny Friend nearly intercepted with nothing but the end zone ahead.
"It was right in my hands and I just couldn't bring it in," Friend said.
Montini proceeded to gain four first downs to set up Andrew Harte's 23-yard field goal for a 16-0 lead at 6:46 of the third quarter. Harte added a 31-yarder, his 13th field goal of the season, for a 19-0 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Forcing Morris to the air, not its strength, the Broncos registered 2 sacks by Beaugard, 1 from tackle Edgar Ruano and a combo job by Thompson, Charlie Long and Mike Maduko until Morris scored with just 47 seconds left to play on a 33-yard pass to Jeff Perry from Zach Cinnamon.
"We just knew their formations by heart and we could read everything they were about to do," said junior linebacker Maduko. "We just read our keys and attacked."
"To be the first senior class to win every single year at such a great program like Montini," all-state receiver Joey Borsellino said, "is something that will stick with me forever -- knowing that we were the first senior class to win every year they were there."