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By Dave Oberhelman
Montini (13-0) at Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-0)
Game time: 10 a.m. Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb
Scouting Montini: The Broncos seek their first undefeated record in their 46-year football history (9-0 regular seasons in 1995, 2008 and this year). They have won four straight 5A championships plus the 2004 Class 4A title, going 5-0 in championship games. Montini is 53-20 in 26 playoff appearances. The Broncos went 7-0 in the Suburban Christian Conference to capture the SCC Blue Division title. With a victory Saturday Montini would join former SCC rival Driscoll (seven straight) as the only Illinois teams to win more than four consecutive championships.
Scouting Sacred Heart-Griffin: The Cyclones, who lost to 5A runners-up Joliet Catholic and Morris in the semifinals the last two seasons, are capping their 34th playoff appearance and 14th straight. The Springfield team owns a 66-30 all-time playoff record with seven prior state title appearances. The Cyclones won three championships in four seasons between 2005-08 with runner-up finishes in 1975, 1982, 1995 and 2003. This season they went 8-0 to capture the Central State Eight title; however, one win was a forfeit over Rochester, which actually won on the field, 38-33.
Road to the championship: Montini, seeded first in the northern bracket of 5A, beat No. 16 Morgan Park 43-6, beat No. 9 Marian Central 40-7, beat No. 4 Joliet Catholic 22-21 and advanced to the championship with a 42-20 win over No. 2 Sycamore. Sacred Heart-Griffin, seeded first in the lower half, beat No. 16 Peoria Richwoods 45-7, beat No. 9 Chatham Glenwood 55-7, beat No. 4 Highland 42-8 and advanced to the championship with a 44-14 win over No. 2 Washington.
Coaches: Montini coach Chris Andriano, an all-state receiver out of Palatine's Class of 1970, owns a lifetime record of 269-119 over 35 seasons. He was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001. Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Ken Leonard, a 2006 inductee into the IHSFCA Hall, has an overall record of 323-66 in 34 seasons. After coaching four years at Chenoa, Leonard has gone 291-57 at Griffin. He is the father of Derek Leonard, coach of the Rochester team that entered Friday seeking a fourth straight Class 4A title.
Montini Sacred Heart-Griffin
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Alex Wills 6-1 195 Sr. QB Gabe Green 6-1 205 Jr.
Nikko Italia 5-10 200 Sr. RB Anthony DiNello 6-0 205 Jr.
Tyler Tumpane 6-0 185 Sr. WR Malik Turner 6-3 205 Sr.
Connor Costello 6-1 190 Sr. WR Dylan Londrigan 5-6 180 Jr.
Leon Thornton III 6-1 185 Jr. WR Nate Lowis 6-2 190 Sr.
Matt Brachmann 6-3 220 Sr. WR Nolan Aherin 6-3 185 Sr.
A.J. Melarkey 6-0 195 Sr. LT/OT Michael Ziegler 6-3 220 Jr.
Mario Galli III 6-2 255 Jr. LG/OG Nick Martin 6-0 245 Jr.
Frank Vosicky 5-11 225 Sr. C Cody Rutherford 5-10 255 Sr.
Michael Johnson 6-4 310 Jr. RG/OG Keegan Hamilton 5-10 255 Sr.
Tom Long 6-2 220 Sr. RT/OT Quinn Oseland 6-6 300 Jr.
Mason Weissenhofer 6-1 180 Jr. K Kenny Rowe 5-10 170 Sr.
Montini Sacred Heart-Griffin
Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr.
Dylan Thompson 6-5 275 Sr. DE/DL Connor Timoney 6-1 225 Sr.
Anthony Ferraro 5-11 230 Sr. DT/DL Kodie Olshefsky 6-2 240 Sr.
Edgar Ruano 6-2 250 Sr. DT/DL Grant Wallace 5-11 230 Sr.
Eric Kibbey 6-2 220 Jr. DE/DL Cameron Murphy 5-10 190 Sr.
Nile Sykes 6-3 225 Sr. LB Chris Overton 6-1 230 Sr.
Mike Maduko 5-10 190 Sr. LB John Morgan 5-11 221 Jr.
Tyler Quick 6-1 185 Sr. LB Chris Smith 6-1 210 Sr.
Derrick Curry 5-10 175 Sr. DB/LB Cody Bowman 6-1 220 Jr.
Jeremy Giderof 5-11 175 Sr. DB Sean Mason 5-10 165 Jr.
Josh Belt 5-10 175 Sr. DB Nate Lowis 6-2 190 Sr.
Isaac Lane 5-11 185 Jr. DB Dalton Manci 5-8 170 So.
Stephen Dennis 6-1 180 Jr. P Gabe Green 6-1 205 Jr.
When Montini has the ball: The Broncos' spread offense has not lost much, if anything, since last season when Robert Aurelio succeeded retiring coordinator Lewis Borsellino. Montini averages 37.6 points and 359 yards per game. Quarterback Wills has completed 65 percent of his 315 passes for 2,723 yards, 32 touchdowns and 7 interceptions; he is the Broncos' all-time leader in completions and touchdown passes. Truly spreading out opposing defenses is Tumpane, mainly a possession receiver who has caught 76 passes for 864 yards, 10 touchdowns, a king of the bubble screen to the perimeter. If the Broncos go Wildcat, he's the man. Deep threat Thornton III has 54 receptions for 967 yards, 13 touchdowns; while he will play Saturday, he twisted an ankle in the quarterfinal and after one early catch against Sycamore sat out the rest of the game. Costello has come on for 39 receptions, 500 yards. The pass has overshadowed the run this season. Rugged Italia has gained 724 yards rushing, with 9 touchdowns, and comes off a 98-yard game. Faster, shiftier freshman Prince Walker has run for 403 yards. In goal-line situations count on Montini to go with its "Bazooka Package" of Sykes crashing behind lead blocker Ferraro and a blend of offensive and defensive linemen in an exciting jumbo set. (Also, there is a pass off this set that has yet to be attempted in a game.) Sacred Heart-Griffin is not huge defensively, but 10 players have flown to the ball for at least 40 tackles, led by Overton with 86.
When Sacred Heart-Griffin has the ball: Though Montini's Wills is Montini's third leading rusher with 213 yards, he is not typically a go-to runner. Griffin's Green is. Green's 610 yards follow only sophomore Sam Sergent's 652 yards. Sergent has run for 12 touchdowns, Green for 11 while starting back DiNello has just 457 yards rushing, but 17 touchdowns. Overall, the Cyclones have a fairly balanced scheme that had run 381 times for 2,620 yards, passed 253 times for 3,126 yards, for a whopping total of 5,746 yards and 54.3 points a game. The gem of the Cyclones' offense is its passing game, namely the heady Green's touchdown-interception ratio of a shocking 39-2. The returning starter has completed 72 percent of his 253 passes for 3,124 yards. His prime target is the all-stater Turner, who has caught 65 passes for 1,311 yards and 22 touchdowns. Lowis also averages nearly 20 yards per catch with 48 receptions for 900 yards, 10 touchdowns; Londrigan ranks third with 21 receptions for 321 yards while Aherin has caught 3 touchdown passes. Up front the Cyclones average 255 pounds, as big as Montini's seen, with returning starters in Hamilton, Rutherford and the huge Oseland. They'll face a Montini defense that Andriano has said is his best ever. A physical base 4-3, it starts up front with Ohio State-bound Thompson, a quick defensive end in Kibbey and two wrestler-type tackles, Ruano and Ferraro.
Intangibles: Montini's Dennis has emerged as a major weapon in field position, and if Thornton cannot go, as a receiver. The junior averages 37 yards a punt. While Londrigan has made but 1 field goal, Weissenhofer is 6-of-8 with a long of 45 yards. Montini is plus-14 on turnover ratio while Leonard believes the Cyclones are plus-28. Andriano said Griffin likes to keep teams guessing, once hitting the Broncos with a "swinging gate" offense in the nonconference series that ended in 2009. Montini may have added motivation by two things -- revenge over Griffin's 6-2 edge in that series and a fifth straight 5A title. Or not. As Andriano said, "They understand that this is about now."
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