Montini wide receiver Leon Thornton III knew his defensive teammates were ready to atone for their toughest outing of the season.
Just one month ago, the Broncos gave up a season-high 35 points but held on to be beat Suburban Christian Blue rival Marian Central by five. Now they were meeting again Saturday night in a Class 5A second-round playoff football game at George Harding Field in Woodstock.
This time the Broncos' starting defense gave up nothing. And in what they hope continues to be an annual rite of passage toward a state title, the four-time defending 5A champions won 40-7 to bounce Marian out of the postseason for the fifth straight season.
"They were fired up all week because they gave up 35 points the last time," said Thornton, who had 3 touchdowns in his 9 catches for 130 yards. "They said, 'We have to get a shutout.' Our defense helped us along and helped us get this win."
Alex Wills threw for 301 yards and 5 touchdowns and the last 15:08 was played with a running clock after the top-seeded Broncos (11-0) took a 40-0 lead. They'll be back at home next weekend for a quarterfinal against No. 4 Joliet Catholic (10-1), a 45-8 winner over Kaneland.
No. 9 Marian (8-3) came in averaging 43 points but committed 5 turnovers and couldn't find the end zone until junior Billy Bahl threw a 15-yard touchdown with 8:45 to play against Montini's reserves. Senior Ephraim Lee came in with 1,119 yards rushing but finished with just 36 on 11 carries.
"We got pressure on the quarterback when we needed it and controlled the running game pretty well," said Montini coach Chris Andriano. "We were as complete a team defensively as we could have been against a great team."
Middle linebacker Michael Maduko, Nile Sykes and Michael Reilley had interceptions. Montini also got sacks from Ohio State-bound Dylan Thompson, Eric Kibbey and Edgar Ruano and a tackle for loss from Anthony Ferraro up front.
"We're on a mission to win a fifth (consecutive) state title and we're definitely motivated because of that," Maduko said. "We've been on a roll the past four weeks ... and we feel like no one can stop us. If all 11 guys are doing their job, everything will go technically sound and that's what happened."
Thornton had touchdown grabs of 53, 8 and 20 yards. Wills also threw touchdown passes of 70 yards to Connor Costello and 14 yards to Tyler Tumpane and Mason Weissenhoffer kicked field goals of 42 and 25 yards.
"We have to be a complete team and our offense, defense and special teams did a great job," Thornton said. "We have to have all three parts working to win a state championship and that's our goal."