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posted: 6/28/2013 1:14 PM

Montini wins Red Grange 7-on-7 Classic

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Montini's football program knows a little something about winning championships.

Topping the field at this week's Red Grange 7-on-7 Classic proved to be no different.

The Broncos didn't make it easy on themselves, but they staved off elimination in three straight games on Thursday to finish first among 24 top-notch teams. The reward is qualification into the National Select 7-on-7 tournament July 24 in Hoover, Ala.

"What they did tells me a lot about these guys," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "They're very competitive and they're very serious about doing their best whenever it's called upon."

During Wednesday's pool play, and especially during Thursday's double-elimination tournament, Montini showed the same mettle that helped the Broncos win the last four Class 5A state titles. Powered by linebacker Nile Sykes, named the Grange's top defensive player, and receiver Tyler Tumpane, the event's top offensive player, Montini ultimately prevailed with a 26-12 victory over Naperville Central in the final.

It was the third meeting of the day between the teams. The Redhawks first beat Montini 17-15 to stay unbeaten, handing the Broncos their first loss in the process.

Montini responded by eliminating Elk Grove 30-23 to set up a rematch with the Redhawks. Needing to beat Naperville Central twice in a row, the Broncos started with a 21-10 victory.

With both teams sitting on a loss, Montini claimed the winner-take-all final by extending a 9-6 lead to 26-6. A combination of defensive stops, worth 2 points, and touchdowns helped build the margin.

Normally 7-on-7 competitions feature explosive offensive performances. This time, Montini leaned on its defense.

"All day everybody was grinding hard, doing what they were supposed to do," said Sykes, a senior who holds scholarship offers from multiple Big Ten and Mid-American Conference schools. "These last two games everyone just had to do their assignment and do it to the best of their ability. That's exactly what they did."

Naperville Central looked strong behind the passing combination of returning quarterback Jake Kolbe, committed to Illinois State, and leading receiver Ben Andreas. That kind of experience bodes well as the Redhawks vie for a return to the playoffs this fall.

"We played a little flat those last two games but we'll learn from it," Kolbe; said. "We've been working so hard, and this was a good experience for us. We can't wait until the season."

Naperville Central finished fourth in the Red Grange Classic Lineman's Challenge -- Batavia won that title -- to make for an overall successful week of summer work.

"If someone had told us we'd run the table in the winner's bracket and get to the championship game, we'd take that," said Redhawks coach Mike Stine. "We won a lot of close games here, and that's good for us. We learned a lot about ourselves."

Event host Wheaton Warrenville South endured a longer day than any other team due to Wednesday's wet weather that forced the postponement of pool play for two of the four groups. The Tigers played 11 games on Thursday including four straight wins to stay alive following their first tournament loss to Montini.

The Tigers eventually were eliminated with a 33-14 loss to Elk Grove, last year's Grange champion.

"They showed me some competitiveness after I got after them after that Montini loss," said WW South coach Ron Muhitch. "That was a long stretch of games to get us climbing back up that hill, but they climbed it pretty well."

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

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