This is Montini's best defensive football team. Even on offense.
The Broncos unloaded the "Bazooka Package" against Joliet Catholic on Saturday, linebacker Nile Sykes taking quarterback Alex Wills' handoff and blasting off-tackle with the game-winning 2-point conversion that earned Montini a 22-21 Class 5A quarterfinal win at Duffy Memorial Field in Lombard.
Running the ball for the first time since the Broncos' Week 1 win over Maine South, Sykes also pounded in an 8-yard score that gave Montini a 14-7 third-quarter lead. "Bazooka" ammunition included defensive end Dylan Thompson, defensive tackle Edgar Ruano, linebacker Mike Maduko and another defensive tackle, Anthony Ferraro, a starting offensive guard in 2012.
"Anthony Ferraro, he'll go knock somebody out for me. He's that motion back, and catching him full speed in the hole, I wouldn't want to be that guy on the other side of that," Sykes said.
"I knew I had to get it in," he said of the conversion run with 4:11 left to play. "I knew those guys up front were going to block for me. I mean, I've got big (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) Michael Johnson -- all those big guys up front. I know they're going to get a push for me, so I've just got to do my job and put it in the end zone."
"When you put Sykes in the backfield, you may need 15 guys to try and tackle him running off tackle," said Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp. "He's a load. It was a good play against our personnel, it was difficult for us to stop, spread us out and run him."
The conversion capped a 59-second, 71-yard touchdown drive. Wills, rolling right from the Joliet Catholic 29-yard line, threw into traffic. It appeared Hilltoppers defensive back Brendan O'Brien tipped the pass -- right to Montini's Stephen Dennis, who turned and sprinted his sole reception into the end zone.
"It got tipped right away and I thought it was about to be picked off, so I was kind of coming back to the ball. And then the next thing I know it's in my hands and I'm in the end zone," said Dennis, who also averaged 40.8 yards on 5 punts, three times pinning Joliet Catholic inside its 20-yard line and twice inside the 10.
The game-winning drive also included what Montini coach Chris Andriano called a "double pass." Wills threw a lateral to Connor Costello, who connected with Tyler Tumpane for a 16-yard reception to set up Dennis' touchdown.
"We pulled that out of our hat today. We used a few plays that we weren't planning on having to try to use. Our guys, again, they just believe. They always believe," said Andriano, whose 12-0 Broncos advance to the semifinals against 12-0 Sycamore, a 21-14 winner over Lincoln-Way West.
"There was no doubt in my mind," said Wills, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 211 yards with an 8-yard, first-quarter touchdown pass to Tumpane. "There were a couple times where it was getting a little close for comfort. But in my mind I knew that we had it all the way."
That was arguable after Joliet Catholic (10-2) led 21-14 with 11:14 left to play. The Hilltoppers tied the score 14-14 on running back Michael Ivlow's 13-yard run at the end of the third quarter, and went up 21-14 on Ivlow's 47-yard touchdown run.
Montini's defense stopped a key third-and-2 in the last six minutes and ended Joliet Catholic's hope on a Ruano sack of quarterback Nick Morrison and then Derrick Curry's interception with 1:37 left.
"They find ways to win," said Ivlow, who carried 37 times for 246 yards. "I was almost positive that we won."